February 3, 2023

ECA Alum Recognized for Social Justice Work

Audrey Gerard

Gerard is the Health Care For All Organizer for Michigan United (https://www.miunited.org/), an
organization that promotes policy changes, leadership development, education, and service with equity
and sustainability as the objective. She began as a volunteer with Michigan United while at Kalamazoo
College. After graduation, a crisis hit.

“When I graduated from college, like most people, I had no money, no job, and no health insurance. I had
an infection but didn’t go to the doctor. I ignored the symptoms and ended up being hospitalized with a
kidney infection that had gone septic. I was on the brink of death. I had a $100,000 hospital bill; I was
riddled with debt and frustrated with the health care system.”

Fortunately for Gerard, she had a social worker to help her navigate the healthcare maze, but the whole
episode started a fire in her belly. She began publicly telling her story, and when the pandemic hit, she
moved her platform online to organize, lobby, and collaborate for Covid-19 healthcare coverage. She
connected with many key people, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Representative Darrin
Camilleri, and the result was the Michigan Corona Virus relief package.

Next, Gerard made a bold move in 2021 to relocate to Houghton County, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,
to organize rural areas around healthcare, while maintaining her other virtual and in-person volunteer
organizing duties. She talked to thousands of residents and held summer rallies to provide information
and encourage people to vote in the 2022 fall election.

Gerard said she always had a keen eye for injustices, dating back to her senior year at ECA.

“I was always observant and sometimes angry at the injustices I observed. I could see the differences in
how people lived, Ann Arbor being too expensive for many. I saw my parents working hard to make ends

She found an organized outlet for her sense of righting wrongs by working part-time from 2015-17 with
Clean Water Action, noting she was one of the youngest and most successful in advancing the cause.

Michelle Peet, Assistant Principal of ECA@EMU remembers Gerard as driven.

“When I first met Audrey, it was apparent that she didn't fall into the stereotypical teen mold. She didn't
care about the mall or the latest TV shows. She was deeply curious and couldn't hold back a chance to
question why things were the way they were,” Peet said. “She learned how to effectively communicate so
folks would listen to her rather than dismiss her.”

Gerard said the ECA gave her the foundational tools for her later work with Michigan United, including
independence, confidence, maturity, maintaining perspective, self-sufficiency, and organization.

The Justice Warrior Award was presented to Gerard for taking a risk, being courageous, and conversing
with people who disagreed with her about reproductive health. Her drive came from a culmination of her
personal experiences.

“I realized through my ordeal that preventative health care is crucial. Now I don’t know any other way to
live; this is my calling, fighting for healthcare equity for all.”

The ECA@EMU is part of the Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium (WEOC). To learn more
visit: https://www.weoc.info