As we enter our 10th year, One World Education is thrilled to announce two new hires to help us continue to grow. Liz Gossens joins us as Director of Marketing and Communications, and Stacy Kirk has signed on as Director of Partnerships. Both Liz and Stacy have diverse backgrounds in education, and we sat down with them for more insight into their respective experiences.

Where are you from? How long have you been in DC?

Stacy Kirk (SK): I am from Naugatuck, CT and spent my childhood years both there and in the suburbs of Richmond, VA. I first landed in DC in 2011 for about nine months just prior to a Peace Corps stint, and returned to the city in 2014.

Liz Gossens (LG): I actually grew up here in DC, and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School (go Tigers!). As a product of DC Public Schools (DCPS) and lifelong Washingtonian, I have incredible passion for helping to improve education in this city. I’ve spent time in New Orleans, Athens (Georgia), and southern Maryland, but I always seem to find myself returning home to DC.

How did you get involved in education?

SK: During college, I worked as a counselor at the University of Virginia’s Summer Enrichment Program, an experience that opened my eyes to the power of project-based learning to foster creativity and stimulate wonder. After completing student teaching in K-12 art, I taught for a year in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, which gave me first-hand insight into educational inequality and the critical need to close both the opportunity and achievement gaps.

LG: The summer after I graduated from Wilson, I had the opportunity to help start a sailing camp on the Anacostia river. I spent the subsequent three summers as a counselor at Kids Set Sail, seeing the profound impact of experiential education. Eventually, I managed the entire program, before going back to college to finish my degree.

What were you doing before One World Education?

SK: After teaching in NYC, I pursued graduate studies in art history while living in Europe, then worked for a number of years at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Carnegie Museum of Art. Over time, I found myself missing working directly with youth, and in 2010, decided to transition back into the education sector. I subsequently taught English in the public school system of South Korea, led an afterschool program at Tubman Elementary School in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC through Kid Power, and served as a youth development volunteer in Peace Corps Costa Rica. In 2014, I returned to Kid Power as their assistant program director. In that role, I managed a diverse team of youth workers, facilitated external partnerships, and oversaw curriculum development and programming for multiple afterschool sites and Kid Power’s annual Summer Leadership Academy.

LG: Upon my return to DC after graduation, I accepted an offer to work with Jubilee Housing’s Early Start – an afterschool and summer program for kindergarten through third grade students in the Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights neighborhoods. I saw the possibility to incorporate more significant learning experiences into the primarily recreational program, and immersed myself in lesson plan design, the (then new) Common Core State Standards, and education news and trends. After a year or so, I was given the opportunity to join a close friend at Collaborative Communications Group, the communications/PR agency where she worked, specifically in the education sector. It was a perfect mix of my love for education, and my myriad work experiences up to that point. After Collaborative, I spent time with Hager Sharp, and subsequently, Communications Strategy Group, in both cases focused specifically on education.

How did you first hear about One World Education?

SK: I first heard about One World Education this past spring through a job advertisement on Idealist, and was immediately intrigued by the organization’s focus on improving students’ writing skills while elevating youth voice on meaningful social and cultural issues.

LG: I was invited to serve as a judge for the 2015 Senior Challenge. Eric saw my name on the list of SXSWedu Advisory Board, and that I was here in Washington, DC. I was so impressed by what I saw in these students – and what the One World Program helped them do. After the event, I signed up for the newsletter and stayed in touch with Eric.

What’s your favorite thing about working in education?

SK: I love witnessing ‘a-ha’ moments, whether the pride students exemplify when grasping a difficult concept or the intrinsic joy they radiate when having their curiosity sparked by a particular topic or project. I also find deep gratification in creating opportunities for youth to develop critical academic and life skills that will help them as they progress along the path to adulthood.

LG: I truly believe that education has the power to change lives. By supporting organizations who are having real impact in public schools (like One World Education), I feel like I’m able to help ensure that students have access to engaging, effective, educational experiences. During my time working with education-specific clients in the PR/communications sector, I was exposed to some incredible organizations who are having significant impact, like the National Academy Foundation, the New Tech Network, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Department of Education, to name a few. It’s incredibly inspiring to hear from students that the One World Program has helped make their education more meaningful – and to see the assessment data that show true results. I realize how lucky I am to be part of something that really matters for students!

Do you have a favorite thing about Washington, DC?

SK: As someone who has lived abroad extensively as an adult, DC’s international ambience is very appealing. The art lover in me also appreciates the wealth of museums here, as well as beautiful historic architecture nestled amid tree-lined streets.

LG: I’m admittedly biased when it comes to Washington, DC. Growing up in this city with access to a beautiful quilt of international culture – art, music, food – I haven’t found any other place in this country with quite the same variety of unique offerings. DC really is a big city with a small town feel!