Gianna Allentuck: 39
Adjustment Counselor, Elias Brookings E.L. Museum Magnet SchoolGianna Allentuck says her life and work have a number of focal points.
But they are all intertwined, and the common denominator is hope. “The way to get to it is by connecting within the community and supporting one another,” she said.
Her parents were both educators, her family is close, and she believes everyone deserves to have a good life. “I’ve been blessed, and that is part of what inspires and motivates me,” she said. “The people in my life always inspired teamwork, support, and dedication to each other and their craft.”
Allentuck spent several years working in Washington, D.C. as a nanny. After leaving the position, she was hired by a law firm, but three weeks into the job she was diagnosed with cancer. Her co-workers immediately joined together to support her.
“They went into action and called major cancer-treatment centers to get me the best care possible,” she said, adding that the love and care she received during her treatment at the National Institutes of Health led her to write a book titled Welcome to My Heart, which was used to raise $40,000 for the Children’s Inn for seriously ill children and their families.
Allentuck returned to Western Mass. in 2006 and began working at Brookings School. Since then, she has created “A Neutral Corner,” a youth boxing program; been a co-creator and coordinator of a Peace through Education, Acceptance, Courage, and Expression (PEACE) hip-hop poetry program; and founded the annual United in Hope event that brings community members together around issues of education and peace.
She writes for the African American Point of View, and has taken an active role with many other organizations, notably the Mayor’s Citywide Violence Prevention Task Force.
“I work with people of all ages, from preschoolers to adult community members,” she said. “Our cities, schools, and communities need a lot of help. We need to get back to where neighbors help neighbors. If we connect the dots and support each other, then hope is possible.”
And that’s where it all begins for Allentuck — straight from the heart.
— Kathleen Mitchell