Gabriel Tucker: Community Outreach
Growing up in Vietnam, Gabriel’s elder sibling exhibited tendencies that neither she nor her family members could explain. He behaved differently than other boys; he was teased at school and could be aggressive at home. When she turned 18, she eagerly left the country, settling in Minnesota. In 2000, Gabriel accepted a position as an assistant pastor at a Vietnamese Christian Church in Dorchester, MA. She adopted three children, and, in the years after they entered school, began a new journey.
She knew she wanted to help recent immigrants, and volunteered to work for AmeriCorps. One year later, in 2010, she was hired by the Home for Little Wanderers. It was then that she began to learn more about mental health and developmental disabilities like Autism. As she deepened her engagement with the community, Gabriel found it fulfilling to help the “poor and voiceless”, those with no understanding of English, the disadvantaged and disempowered.
She applied to the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program and was accepted. She also became active with the Circle of Vietnamese Parents, an organization that offers support for families of children with special needs. Gabriel together with her friends ran a support group where, parents watched as their children were taught life skills. The parents could then model the behavior at home and reinforce the practices. She found it empowering to be a female Vietnamese professional, bilingual and active in the community, who could serve as a role model for the younger generation.
As she learned and explored, Gabriel began to see her childhood experiences through a different lens – one where her sibling may have had a condition that no one, at the time, could name or understand. Gabriel believes that fate brought her to this point; gaining the knowledge and skills to help families like her own navigate a different path.