Nimo Ali is a J.D. Candidate in her second year at Penn Law and the Field Center’s 2021-2022 Lerner Fellow in Child Welfare Policy. Prior to law school, Nimo worked in education policy and administration for eight years in Philadelphia and New York, and served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar, working with thirty community health workers on nutrition and permagardening with a focus on child and maternal health. Throughout this time, Nimo has worked with young people in many volunteer capacities, from tutoring Philadelphia students in math and English to running a girls’ empowerment camp in Madagascar. At Penn Law, she volunteers with the Youth Advocacy Project, advocating for the rights of young people in Pennsylvania who are charged as adults in the criminal legal system. Additionally, she serves as co-chair on the board of Penn’s Law Students for a Democratic Society, the Advocacy Co-Chair on the board of Black Law Students Association, and as an Associate Editor on the Journal of Law and Social Change. This past summer, Nimo worked as a legal intern for Street Democracy, a legal services non-profit in Detroit, Michigan and as a research assistant for Professor Kermit Roosevelt on his work with the Supreme Court Reform Commission and for Professor Dorothy Roberts supporting the completion of her new book on family policing and the child welfare system. Nimo earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology from Carleton College in 2011.
Richard Wren joined the Field Center in October 2021 as an Advanced Standing Macro Practice MSW student from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2). Wren earned his bachelor’s degree in Social Work at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2019. Wren is a six-year United States Air Force Veteran and has deployed several times including Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. He has worked with veterans, families, and healthcare advocacy throughout his social work career and is thankful for the opportunity to work with the Field Center in their advocacy efforts. His goal is to not only enhance quality of life for veterans but also provide support for children and youth facing challenges, as well as provide resources for children of veterans. Prior to joining SP2, Wren interned at a U.S. Senator’s office in Nevada working on civic engagement, policy and advocacy research, and casework management portfolios. During his advocacy efforts, Wren worked diligently to develop and nurture relationships with members of the legislature, both during legislative sessions as well as during the interim between sessions. Several areas of his advocacy work crossed over into child well-being, which Wren hopes to learn more about at the Field Center.
Sarah Gzesh joined the Field Center in May 2021, and is a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice. Sarah is currently conducting research with Managing Faculty Director Dr. Johanna Greeson on a study entitled “I Was Already Broke: Now I Feel Broken: Amplifying the Voices of Youth Experiencing & Aged Out of Foster Care During COVID-19 and Its Impact on Mental Health.” Sarah’s ongoing work with the Field Center includes co-authoring research reports, academic conference presentations, and peer-reviewed journal articles to disseminate topical findings pertaining to child welfare. Prior to doctoral studies, Sarah worked in direct practice with marginalized young people for over a decade, as both an educator and therapist. After studying Art History and English at Bryn Mawr College, Sarah joined Teach for America, and earned a Secondary English Teaching Credential. Sarah taught English Language Arts and Critical Theory for six years in Title I schools throughout the Bay Area, CA. Sarah earned a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University, in the clinical track for Children, Youth, and Families. As a clinician, Sarah worked at Westcoast Children’s Clinic and Larkin Street Youth Services, and supported system-involved youth experiencing sexual exploitation, substance use, and homelessness. Sarah is passionate about exploring how identity-based supports provide corrective experiences for past attachment ruptures, embodied oppression, and complex trauma. Sarah believes that harm reduction and participatory action research are integral to accurately ascertaining gauges of distress (such as consensual sex work vs. exploitation, substance mis/use), so as to avoid exacerbating marginalization and pathologization. Sarah’s research goal is to expand definitions of family systems within the field of social welfare to harness cultural wealth embedded in LGBTQ+ communities, and to use research-informed practice and practice-informed research to improve clinical interventions for transitional age youth.
John Gyourko, who joined the Field Center in August 2020, is a PhD in Social Welfare student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2). A Virginia native, John earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Virginia Tech and his Master of Social Work degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received the 2020 MSW Student of the Year award from the National Association of Social Workers (Virginia chapter). Prior to joining SP2 and the Field Center, John held multiple clinical and macro practice positions with public and private social service agencies. As a child welfare policy specialist with the Virginia Department of Social Services, he has administered credit monitoring, identity protection, and Independent Living programs for youth in foster care. John’s research interests focus on public policy, service delivery, and the adult outcomes of children and youth in foster care. To date, John has been involved in multiple Field Center projects focusing on the experiences and needs of current and former foster youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a member of the Field Center team providing pro bono support to the advocacy organization Think of Us, John has co-authored state data briefs detailing the impact of COVID-19 on young people with foster care experience. John’s ongoing work with the Field Center includes co-authored research reports, academic conference presentations, and peer-reviewed journal articles to disseminate child welfare- and foster care-focused study findings. He was recently awarded an SP2 Summer Research Fellowship to investigate identity theft victimization among foster youth.
Isabelle Seymour is a junior in the traditional BSN program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing pursuing minors in both Global Health and Anthropology. She joined the Field Center in January of 2022 as a part of her independent study on the Child Welfare System with Field Center Faculty Director and Nursing Professor Dr. Cynthia Connolly. She has been dedicating most of her time to the Foster Care to College Initiative, gathering resources for high school students with foster care experience interested in going to college. In addition, Isabelle has been attending Field Center monthly meetings to build a solid knowledge base of the child welfare system in order to inform her care of this patient population as a future nurse. She hopes to further explore ways in which the nursing profession can improve the outcomes of vulnerable children.