Baldwinite Gisselle Campbell-Ham was one of 10 women recognized on July 30 at State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin’s second annual Women of Distinction Ceremony, held in the Baldwin Community Garden.
Birds chirped above on the hot, humid evening in the garden, behind the Baldwin Historical Society building at 1980 Grand Avenue, as local elected officials thanked residents of the 21st Assembly District for their selfless contributions to their communities.
The women were honored “for going above and beyond and continuing to be a light within their respective communities and a role model to all,” Griffin said. “Their compassion, civic mindfulness, leadership, initiative and commitment to service convey their generous contribution to the community.”
Griffin presented Campbell-Ham with a citation and a pink rose after describing her extensive involvement in the Baldwin and Freeport school districts.
After completing her bachelor’s in secondary education and Spanish literature at SUNY Stony Brook University in 1993, Campbell-Ham worked as a permanent substitute teacher at John W. Dodd Middle School in Freeport. The following year, she began teaching in the World Languages Department and, for the next decade, shared her love of the Spanish language and culture with her students.
During that time, she assumed several leadership roles, including adviser for the student council and yearbook, Odyssey of the Mind team coach, lead teacher for the language department, Freeport Teacher Center Police Board chair, co-founder and chair of the Early College Awareness Day Program, and teacher-mentor program facilitator.
Campbell-Ham earned her master’s in English literature from LIU Post in 2000, followed by a professional diploma in school district administration in 2003. The following year, she was appointed the middle school’s dean of students. She established and coordinated evening bilingual workshops for parents and the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, co-founded the Ladies of Dodd — a program that aims to empower and inspire young women — and provided professional development workshops for faculty and staff.
In 2012, Campbell-Ham joined Freeport High School’s administrative team as assistant principal. She also devoted seven years to being a parent volunteer for Girl Scout Troop 2305 and served as PTA president at Brookside Elementary School in Baldwin. She is now the PTA vice president of the Ways and Means Committee at Brookside, and a member of the Baldwin PTA Council.
“I’m truly honored,” Campbell-Ham said. “Assemblywoman Griffin is very active in the PTA, and she actually was one of my guest speakers for [the Pick a Reading Partner program] at Brookside last year when I was PTA president, so I truly respect and admire her. . . . I feel very honored to be part of this group of distinguished women. It reassures my sense of, in the midst of all this turmoil that we’re seeing in our nation and in the world, that there’s still people that are doing positive things in their local community and we need to cherish and celebrate that more.”
County Executive Laura Curran, of Baldwin, congratulated all the honorees.
“Each and every one of you, in your community, in your family, whether you’re working, whether you’re serving, whether you’re doing community work, whatever it is, you’re spinning many plates at the same time and you’re doing it with grace and you’re doing it with calm,” she said. “Your accomplishments and what you’ve done and the light that you shine in your family and your community makes me very optimistic in these challenging times.”
County Legislator Debra Mulé, who represents Baldwin, attended the ceremony and sent good wishes to all the honorees.
“It’s really a very special thing and I know something that you will treasure always,” she said. “Congratulations to everybody — very well-deserved — and thank you for carrying on this beautiful tradition, Assemblywoman Griffin.”
Griffin said each woman is a role model not only for her own daughters and sons, but also all the people around her, and each is “such a breath of fresh air” amid challenging times during the pandemic.
She also thanked the women who were recognized last year, some of whom tuned in via Zoom, and members of the Baldwin Civic Association for welcoming the group to the garden.
“In the challenging times we live in, I’m so proud to represent these vibrant women, as well as the long line of accomplished women who have been recognized in prior years,” Griffin said. “Together you make our communities stand out as a great place to live, work and play.”