Alumni Spotlight: Turea Hutson (’97)
Turea Hutson (PMFS ’97)
When asked why she is doing a PhD in Education Leadership and Policy, Turea Hutson said, “I thought I could make an impact […] I was getting a little frustrated by the way I saw things going; politics are so involved in education that it’s really starting to chip away at what’s best for kids.” Turea recently stepped down from seven years of service on the board of Norristown Area School District, with the last three years as School Board President. When she finishes her degree from Drexel on a full academic scholarship, Turea hopes to work for the State or Federal Department of Education where she can be an advocate for social justice and equity in schools. She is currently running for Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee.
Turea’s journey in education began when she was splitting her time between getting a B.A. in Elementary Education and working as an Assistant Teacher at PMFS. Some young alumni may remember her from Pre-K with Martha Wolf and Melissa Schoerke Koomson, or from Fifth Grade with Leann Stover-Nyce. Turea went on to earn her M.Ed in Literacy Studies and TESOL from Arcadia, and considered becoming a classroom teacher. Feeling energized by Barack Obama’s presidential win in 2008, she chose instead to work on the 2012 Montgomery County Commissioner campaign for Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards. Leslie was a parent in one of the PMFS Pre-K classes that Turea taught, and she knew Turea would be an asset. The Shapiro-Richards ticket won, making them the first Democrats to lead the county since the 1870’s.
After that experience, Turea said, “I knew I wanted to marry the politics and the education pieces.” While working for the county in a few different communications and outreach positions, Turea was also working hard for students in Norristown Area School District. During her time on the NASD School Board, she and her colleagues enacted policies that made a difference, like providing access to free breakfast and lunch to students regardless of income, so that students could “go through the lunch line with dignity,” establishing a natural hair policy to prevent discrimination based on race-based hairstyles like braids and locs, and making the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr a day off for all students.
Turea also started her own business as an Independent Consultant on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). She said, “As we entered this season of change in the country, I felt I had experiences and a background that could help organizations get to a place where their minoritized populations could feel welcome and safe.” She led DEI workshops for institutions like Ursinus College and the Valley Forge Park Alliance before putting her consulting on hold to do her PhD. She still continues to do DEI work on a volunteer basis, serving as Interim Chair of the Diversity Committee for the Montgomery County Democratic Party.
Turea, who started at PMFS in Third Grade, credits Plymouth with the path she’s chosen. She said, “PMFS really laid the foundation for me as far as social justice is concerned and being aware of what’s going on in the world. We had a lot of conversations early on that shaped the trajectory of my life and the reason why I care so much.” When she was Varley Paul’s student in Sixth Grade, Turea remembers “having really frank conversations about race and the history of race in this country, and feeling like I had a space where I could share some of my experiences that I was still making sense of as a child. […] It was a place I always felt safe. It was a place where I always felt like I could be my full self. And those are rare spaces. I made some really good friends; I still keep in touch with people. We made some incredible bonds.”
Turea’s PMFS Sixth Grade graduation photo