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The Impact We Hope to Have

Kamal James and Inella Ray will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for the Online Master's in Education Program
Kamal James and Inella Ray
Kamal James (left) and Inella Ray

The Intellectual Contribution Award recognizes graduating Ed.M. students (one from each master’s degree program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. All recipients were nominated by their classmates based on who inspired them, helped them gain a different perspective on education's challenges, and contributed to shared learning and intellectual growth, both inside and outside of the classroom. Each program's faculty directors, in consultation with other faculty and staff, selected the final honorees for their program based on the nominations and on demonstrated academic success.  

Kamal James and Inella Ray will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for the Online Master's in Education (OEL) Program during HGSE Convocation exercises on May 22. Below, our faculty members comment on the selections, and we asked the winners about their time at HGSE, their future goals, and their approach to impacting the field of education.

Kamal James, Ed.M.'24

"Kamal has been a leading light for this first cohort of OEL students. Throughout all his coursework, his brilliance shines through fostering thoughtful conversations and inspiring others to strive for their best. Beyond classes, Kamal has orchestrated meaningful learning experiences, from student-led conferences to community-building initiatives demonstrating his dedication to this community. Kamal is the real deal!" — OEL Faculty Co-Chair Francesca Purcell

Kamal James and Bridget Long
Kamal James with Dean Bridget Long

What brought you to HGSE and what was your goal in coming here? My professional mission is to help young people to gain access to high-quality college opportunities through preparation and awareness. I chose to attend HGSE in order to gain expertise related to college, college admissions, and college entrance exams.  

What surprised you about your time at HGSE? I was surprised by the strong sense of community that developed with students and faculty spread out geographically. Nicole Barone and the OEL team did an excellent job overcoming geographic challenges to foster closeness.  

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience? Lecturer Alexis Redding, Senior Lecturer Drew Allen, Senior Lecturer Francesca Purcell, Senior Lecturer Irvin Scott, Senior Lecturer Judith McLaughlin, and Lecturer Noah Heller.  

What are your post-HGSE plans? Where are you hoping to make the most impact? I seek to eliminate socioeconomic and racial disparities in college preparation/application behaviors, especially those related to the SAT and ACT.

Inella Ray, Ed.M.'24

"Inella Ray has been a thoughtful, action-oriented learner and leader in this inaugural cohort of the OEL program. She not only pushes herself and others to think beyond the boundaries of what is possible, but she works hard to turn that thinking into practices which positively impact students and communities. She has exemplified what OEL is all about: Leading on campus, online, and on the ground. We celebrate Inella for her shining example." — OEL Faculty Co-Chair Irvin Scott

Inella Ray posing in front of a red HGSE banner
Inella Ray posing in front of a red HGSE banner

What brought you to HGSE, and what was your goal in coming here? I grew up in the inner city of West Philadelphia and witnessed very early the intersecting realities of what it means to grow up Black and poor. Education saved my life — I wouldn't be where I currently am without it. Yet, I'm acutely aware that communities like mine are discounted, policed, and underestimated. I came to HGSE to become more sophisticated in advocating, mobilizing, and organizing around issues that acutely impact Black, Brown, poor, and neurodivergent children. I was tired of learning by accident; I knew the families and communities I worked in service of needed people who were serious about being co-conspirators, and that meant being diligent in expanding my knowledge and honing my skills to be a changemaker in education, but most importantly, in my community first.  

What is something that you learned this year that you will take with you throughout your career in education? Early on, I was socialized that I had to be perfect to be worthy. HGSE allowed me to unlearn ideas about my worthiness and untether myself from thinking that once caused me to shrink. While at HGSE, I also learned to lean into a bolder version of myself. I will continue to remind myself that I am valuable and worthy of all the goodness happening to me. If I am in an educational space or otherwise, I'm supposed to be there and stand unapologetically in the fullness of who I am.  

How did your HGSE experience shape your work or your goals?  HGSE has given me newfound confidence in being a co-conspirator for educational freedom and justice. I am still learning and unlearning about how I have been complicit in keeping the world the same. HGSE has given me a container to wrestle with fundamental questions :  

  • Do we lead from a place of love or hate?  
  • Do we tell the truth or remain silent in the face of injustice?  
  • Do we dare to change ourselves, or do we export change to everyone but ourselves?  

What endures is who we are and what we do at critical moments that test our values and ultimately shape who we are. I hope to continue to change the world.  

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience? A few months into my time at HGSE, Senior Lecturer Irvin Scott asked me what kind of impact I wanted to have. If I am being honest, his question stumped me. I knew I wanted to use my talents and gifts in the service of education, but until then, I had yet to consider the impact I hoped to have. he helped me think critically and imaginatively about impact, but more importantly, he taught me to always keep sight of who I am and where I come from. Blending that learning with the spaciousness Lecturer Tim McCarthy gave me Real Talk to reflect on my values and how I wanted to use my voice as a continual lever for social change was unlearning and becoming all at once. I am incredibly thankful for Real Talk and how I explored who I am and what I value with storytelling as a medium.  

I want to recount a few lines from my values speech, an ode to who I am and who I will continue to be beyond HGSE:  

"I'm still allowing my heart to break. I'm still speaking truth to power. I'm still in the streets. I'm still rocking with the people. I'm still organizing. I'm still righteously in rage. I'm still getting into good trouble. I'm still honoring my ancestors' legacy. I'm still fighting for our collective breath."


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