Episode 42: Dorothy Jungels of Everett Stage Company School

Dorothy Jungels
When I met Dorothy Jungels, I knew immediately that I wanted to spend more time with her. As the co-founder and co-Artistic Director of Everett Company Stage School, Dorothy is part of an amazing “mom and pop” nonprofit community arts organization, along with many members of her family and extended family. This past year while my family and I were living in Providence, RI, my daughter Rosie had the good luck to take a Story Ballet class with Dorothy’s granddaughter Grace, I had the privilege to take an Improv class with Dorothy herself, and my wife Elia, as Executive Director of New Urban Arts, collaborated closely with Dorothy through the Providence Youth Arts Collaborative. Because of these experiences, I got to know Dorothy and was eager to talk with her for the podcast. I wanted to hear the story of this 28 year old grass roots organization and learn about Dorothy’s perspective on the world and the work. We talk about seeing beauty where others might not and how art can create life.

As I discuss in the intro, this is my last podcast episode before I start my new chapter as President and CEO of LA’s BEST After School Enrichment Program! I am hoping to find the time to keep the podcast going. Thank you for listening.


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Episode 41: Dr. Nancy Rappaport, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist!

For a long time, I have been concerned about how young children are given drugs like Ritalin and Adderal. So when I saw Nancy Rappaport‘s recent Washington Post article, “We Are Overmedicating America’s Poorest Kids,” it caught my eye.

In this episode, I talk to Dr. Rappaport about many issues including the oversimplication of the headline that caught my eye. Mental health challenges in children are complex. In this article, and her book, The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students, Dr. Rappaport explains many of the complexities and provides some great advice about understanding young people, preventing challenging behavior before it occurs, and using natural methods such as exercise, yoga, and self-regulation skills instead of or in addition to medication.


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Episode 40: Carla Sanger of LA’s BEST Afterschool Enrichment Program

Carla SangerOne of the great things about doing this podcast is that I get to meet awesome new people. The other great thing is that I get to sit down with some of my favorite people and talk to them for an hour or so, and this is one of those episodes. Carla Sanger, the President and CEO of LA’s BEST is definitely one of my favorite people, and also a very important mentor to me and many others. I’ve been wanting to interview her since Please Speak Freely started, and I finally got the chance!

We talked about what it means to build an organization from just a few sites to 194 sites, how to deal with funders who think they know best, and why it’s so important to her to keep afterschool balanced and focused on children’s vitality and creativity.

This episode is sponsored by Developmental Studies Center, a nonprofit educational publisher dedicate to children’s academic, ethical and social development. DSC is the creator of some of the best curricula available for out-of-school time programs like KidzLitKidzMath and KidzScience, as well as many products for schools and outstanding professional development.

If you’re interested in sponsoring Please Speak Freely, click here!

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Episode 39: A Memorial to the
Great Richard Murphy

Richard MurphyThis is a very special episode of Please Speak Freely, a memorial to the great Richard Murphy. Murphy was a friend and a mentor to me and countless others, and he passed away on Valentine’s Day, 2013. He was a true lion in the field of youth development. Among many other accomplishments, he founded Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families which became the Harlem Children’s Zone, created the Beacon Programs when he was Commissioner of Youth Services under Mayor David Dinkins, cofounded the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, helped to create Food and Finance High School, and founded iMapVentures.

I had hoped to interview Richard for Please Speak Freely, but I never got the chance. For this episode, I recorded a memorial event held on February 14, 2014 at Food and Finance High School and edited a few clips together so you could hear what people had to say about Murphy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to record the actual memorial service held in 2013 where luminaries such as Mayor Dinkins and Ambassador Patrick Gaspard shared funny and warm memories of Murphy. Hopefully this will give you some idea of the incredible esteem people hold Murphy in. Mostly it’s my chance to say, “Murphy, we love you.”

Here is a list of the people whose voices you will hear on this podcast:
Rev. Alfonso Wyatt, Vice President of the Fund for the City of New York
Gail Brewer, Manhattan Borough President
Jessica Mates, Chief of Staff for Manhattan Borough President
Aldrin Bonilla, Deputy Manhattan Borough President
Pierina de la Cruz
Leydis de la Cruz
Raul Radcliffe
Roger Turgeon, Principal of Food and Finance High School
Jim Marley, Assistant Executive Director of  Good Shepherd Services
Carla Sanger, President & CEO of LA’s BEST Afterschool Enrichment Program
Robert Newman, Chair of iMapVentures and Executive Vice President and COO of AmeriDream
Katrice Walker, Singer

Here are some links to remembrances of Richard Murphy:
Richard L. Murphy, Who Aided Disadvantaged Youths, Dies at 68, New York Times Obituary 2/15/13
In the End, He Stole Nothing and Gave Plenty, New York Time 2/19/13
Mourning the Loss of Richard Murphy, NY Nonprofit Press 2/15/13
Richard Murphy, A Powerful Example of Servant Leadership 4/10/13

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Episode 38: Jaime Casap, Google’s Global Education Evangelist


Thanks to support from the National AfterSchool Association (NAA), I got a chance to interview Jaime Casap at the 2014 NAA National Convention where he was the keynote speaker. Jaime is the Global Education Evangelist at Google, a company you may have heard of. In his role, he is responsible for working with schools and organizations to bring technology into the education environment. We had a lively conversation that covered Jaime’s experience growing up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in NYC, my terror at the thought of having my progress as a learner evaluated on a daily basis, and whether technology firms like Google are looking to change the world or simply tap into educational market.

Check out the NAA website to see what other great speakers were at the convention, and join them next year in Washington, DC.  Enjoy!

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Episode 37: Baratunde Thurston, Comedian, Entrepreneur and Author of How to Be Black!

Baratunde Thurston

Baratunde Thurston is the CEO and co-founder of Cultivated Wit, a design, media, and technology company. I came across Baratunde’s book, How to Be Black, in a used bookstore last summer. It caught my eye because the title is so funny, and because I recognized his name, probably from his days as Director of Digital at The Onion, his column in Fast Company, or his more than 10 years as a standup comedian. His book is so engaging and has a really smart approach to discussing race, culture, class, and much more. When I heard him discussing his educational experience on WTF with Marc Maron and heard about his participation in out-of-school activities such as Higher Achievement and the DC Youth Orchestra, I knew I had my hook for inviting him to be a guest on Please Speak Freely. We had a great conversation about his experience going from public schools in Washington, DC to the prestigious Sidwell Friends School, then to Harvard University, and the many adventures he had along the way.

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Episode 36: Pasi Sahlberg, Author of Finnish Lessons and Visiting Professor at Harvard!

Pasi Sahlberg

If you’ve been following the national or international news about education policy over the past few years, you’ve probably heard that Finland is a big educational success story. What’s amazing about the Finnish story is that the Finnish have basically done everything the opposite of the current education reform agenda in the United States. They’ve focused on equity over excellence, improving the teaching force, limiting student testing, putting responsibility and trust before accountability, and making sure schools and districts are led by education professionals. Pasi Sahlberg and I discussed all this, but also talked about his own experience as a student (he literally grew up in a schoolhouse), and how he came to be an ambassador, of sorts, for Finland’s schools. If you want to hear more of Pasi’s ideas, check out his compelling book, Finnish Lessons, What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland, or this TEDx talk You may also be able to catch him live because he is currently on a leave of absence from his post as Director General of the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation (CIMO) in Helsinki and is a Visiting Professor of Practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

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Episode 35: Selma James, Activist and Founder of International Wages for Housework Campaign!

Selma James speaking with Eric Gurna on Please Speak Freely

Selma James is a freedom fighter, fighting against racism, and fighting for human rights for all, especially women. She is best known for the International Wages for Housework Campaign, launched in 1972. She has continued her fierce activism all these years, and her most recent book, Sex, Race and Class, The Perspective of Winning, A Selection of Writings 1952-2011 (PM Press 2012) had a big impact on me personally. I was honored to be able to talk with Selma James for Please Speak Freely. The challenging part was that she is based in London, so we conducted the interview over Skype, and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards! I worked hard in editing to clean it up as much as possible for you, and I think that you will find the conversation worth it.

Please check out the work of Global Women’s Strike and sign their petition to the US Congress to end poverty of mothers and children and recognize caregiving work.

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Please Speak Freely

On Please Speak Freely, Eric Gurna, founder of Development Without Limits interviews leading thinkers, artists and others to shed light on key issues and explore different perspectives about youth development and education. The idea is to get past the platitudes and institutional positions, and have honest, nuanced conversations about things that really matter to young people and communities. Please Speak Freely guests include:

  • Raffi, Children’s Troubadour and Founder of the Centre for Child Honouring
  • Alfie Kohn, Author of several books including Punished By Rewards and The Schools Our Children Deserve
  • Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education at New York University
  • Karen Pittman, President & CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment
  • Tony Smith, Former Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District
  • Lenore Skenazy, “America’s Worst Mom” and Author of Free-Range Kids

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