Gabriella Barbosa ’04
“I kept getting exposed to things I wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”
Having discovered a passion for political science from an early age, Gabriella Barbosa appreciated Crossroads history classes that “made you think about the world” and the School’s emphasis on developing a critical point of view.
“I’ve always looked at things through a social justice lens,” says Gabriella, the child of immigrants and among the first generation in her family born in the United States. She uses this lens daily as the policy director at the Children’s Partnership, where she leads the organization’s child health equity agenda nationally and locally. She designs and advocates for policies and laws that address the impact of systemic racism, immigration enforcement and other social determinants on the health and well-being of children from marginalized communities.
After entering Crossroads in sixth grade, she sometimes felt she was stepping between two worlds, traveling from her home in Silver Lake to Santa Monica. But “almost instantly” she recognized the many opportunities open to her, including Environmental and Outdoor Education trips that took her sea kayaking and camping. “I kept getting exposed to things I wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” she says.
Gabriella decided she wanted to increase such opportunities for others. Her solution was education: “One of the only tools you can choose to change your future.” She earned her bachelor’s in International Relations and Affairs and Human Rights at Columbia University, then began teaching government at a South Gate high school.
Unafraid to take on difficult issues, Gabriella soon had a bigger goal: impacting the laws affecting education. She returned to New York and Columbia Law School, where she was chosen as a fellow with Education Pioneers, which is dedicated to improving outcomes for historically marginalized students.
Armed with her law degree, she joined Public Counsel in LA as an Equal Justice Works fellow, advocating for legislative changes, such as
a reversal of the state’s 1998 ban on bilingual education, which was overturned in 2016. She has also served as policy director for LA Unified School District Board Member Ref Rodriguez and as director of advocacy and public policy with Alliance for a Better Community.
As a lawyer, Gabriella often felt she was reacting to social justice after the fact. These days, she has a seat at the table. She explains, "I like being on the front end of things: proactive, able to influence the people who create the policies and the laws. I really enjoy this space.”