• Theresa Gartland–The Kid’s Warrior– Driven by a Heart Bigger Than Any Turf.

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    Growing Up

    If you spied the young Theresa growing up in an affluent neighborhood in Potomac Maryland, you probably wouldn’t have guessed the road she was destined to take.  Unbeknownst to many of her peers, this red-haired, fair-skinned catholic school girl knew from a young age that she wasn’t going to be satisfied with following the typical path.  She wanted more–needed to do more to make a difference.

     

    When She Knew

    The all-girls private High School that Theresa attended volunteered every Wednesday in an after-school program in southeast D.C.  This is when she discovered that she loved helping kids and she wanted to do it on a larger scale.

     

    Intense Education

    After graduating from Villanova University, Theresa joined a non-profit volunteer Fellowship Teaching program called ‘Response-Ability’ which placed college graduates in inner-city Catholic Schools across the U.S.

     

    In 2003, she found herself in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. During this time, she simultaneously taught and worked toward her Master’s degree, which she earned in Elementary Education from Loyola Marymount University.

     

    First Shots

    It was in that neighborhood in Compton that Theresa heard her first gun shots that echoed so loudly she feared they would come through the walls.  This is also where she saw her first swat team as it converged on a neighborhood house, and where she experienced the horror of watching the death toll rise when one gang shooting resulted in an average of 7-12 retaliation deaths.

     

    No More Masks

    It was also during this time that Theresa learned that she could no longer wear a mask because the children saw right through it.  This made her realize that teaching wasn’t being something she wasn’t, but instead she embraced her authentic self and came from her heart in everything she did.

     

    The children taught her that you didn’t give up on people, you stood beside them and helped them the best you knew how. It was here that she learned who she was deep down.  What Theresa found was that she was so much more than where she came from or what she looked like.

     

    Driving Force

    Getting to know the kids and seeing just how incredible they were as well as watching how hard their families worked to make a better life for themselves, Theresa knew that she was doing what she was supposed to.  This was her passion, the beginning of her life’s work.

     

    Bigger Picture

    After years of teaching and working as an administrator, Theresa felt compelled to continue her plight on a larger scale.   Joining Urban Compass, an educational nonprofit located in the heart of Watts, as a Program Director in 2008, she dedicated herself to the continuing development of the children of the community. Through innovation, creativity, and hard work, Theresa dedicated herself to growing & managing tutoring support, field trips, & enrichment activities for the children of the Watts Community.

     

    It’s the Little Things

    The genuine curiosity and openness that the children bring with them feeds Theresa’s determination to help serve this community.  She has found that it is the ‘simple things’ that make a difference in their lives. If she can make them smile or help them to have a good day in lieu of anything else going on in their lives, it is worth it to her.  Sharing field trips to places they may otherwise not have the opportunity to visit, telling them she is proud of them, giving them the extra help that may determine whether they succeed or not, are the things that fan the fire within her.

     

    Her Plight Continues

    Since 2011, Theresa has continued to serve the children in the community of Watts as the Executive Director of Urban Compass.  With it came more responsibility, and required more of her creativity on a grander scale, but her vision remains the same…helping change children lives, one day, one smile, one helping hand at a time.

     

    What made this fair girl want to grow up to follow an unbeaten path?  What continues to drive her to to advocate and help children from the financially challenged neighborhoods of the inner city?

    It’s simple, the kids.


     

    By – A.P. Morris Creative Copy Writing