Leader Spotlight

Meet Irene Habermann

Posted by: Olivia Schiller on 8/1/2014

Irene grew up in Son en Bruggel, Nederland and moved to the United States when she was 7. Currently, Irene lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is involved with Gamaliel’s affiliate, Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN). Irene is the Education Task Force Chair with PIIN and the National Education Chair with Gamaliel. 

How did you get involved with Gamaliel?

With the recommendation of David Herndon, my minister, I went to Gamaliel Leadership Training in February of 2011. After 4 years of fighting for my health and being home bound, I came alive when Mary Gonzales challenged me. Since being involved with Gamaliel, I have reconnected with my passion for Social Justice. 

What are some of your recent accomplishments? 

Upon taking the Chair position of an eight member Education Task Force for PIIN, my first priority was to develop and diversify its membership in order to increase our power and that of the organization as a whole. Within 3 months we became a 32-member team of individuals diverse in faith, cultural background, nationality, education and educational system knowledge.  Within 6 months our team created a coalition with community members, the school district and superintendent, the teachers union along with its president, and community organizations to improve the public school system. Then it was time to work state wide, calling in community organizations from all over PA and building relationships with city mayors, state legislators and Senators. My work has also become a national effort, meeting, planning, programming and taking action across the country.

What are you currently working on?

In forming the Great Public Schools- Pittsburgh (GPS) coalition the work has focused on a community grassroots solution to the issue of Public Education. With this work we have been able to change the school board to a more progressive one, Saved two schools from closing, stopped the growth and development of more charter schools in the district, Stop a contract with Teach for America and we are currently working on a community school model for thee Pittsburgh city schools. On a state level we are building a coalition of faith-based organizations with an emphasis on Education Justice Voters and the Fair Funding Formula for the state of PA.

Do you have a goal that you are working towards for 2014-2015?

In the coming year we want to build what we have started. Keeping all our Public schools open and creating dynamic schools that serve the entire child and the surrounding community. We also want to see a change in the governor's office and the Legislature to be more progressive and stand with us on SJ issues.

How did you reach your leadership position within Gamaliel?

I believe the key to my success has always been to build relationships and create the tangible programs to move individuals forward with my eye on the bigger vision and mission toward the growth of the organization and social justice. This has supported me in my positions as a dynamic teacher and as a powerful community leader and organizer.  I see that same attitude vested in the Education Campaign to win a full, fair funding formula in the state of Pennsylvania.  I am looking forward to promoting the current efforts in creating the long-term infrastructure for a powerful and prophetic statewide faith voice, especially in coalition with POWER and CUNA from the eastern part of the state.  This dynamic program is especially powerful for improving the quality of life and broadening opportunities for all Pennsylvanians.

How do you want people to view you as an organizer? 

I have a clear vision and am direct yet compassionate in my communications. I see and say what it is. I have earned the respect and trust of the community with my efforts as well as other leaders. I am a powerful advocate for Public Education and clearly identify the obstacles while listening for the solutions from the community. I have just accepted a position as an organizer with PIIN. I hope to be as influential and powerful in promoting leaders, as I was a leader myself. I see this as a growth opportunity for myself and PIIN in furthering justice issues along with taking social justice actions. 

Categories: Pennsylvania |

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