Meet the Team
Vernon C. Grigg III
Vernon brings a career-long commitment to education, inclusion, service, and improving the daily lives of all people. A lawyer by training, Vernon holds degrees from Yale Law School (J.D.), the London School of Economics (G.SC.), and the University of Michigan (BA). Vernon comes to the Kravis Lab from his role as CEO & President of Up with People, a fifty-five-year-old international nonprofit education and arts organization. He managed a global team of 50 employees across three continents as he led the nonprofit to sustainability and health despite the challenges of the worldwide pandemic.
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Vernon is a seasoned trial lawyer, representing clients of all kinds, including government officials, Fortune 100 Corporations, and a major league sports franchise, always making time to help the least fortunate with civil rights and employment matters. He is admitted and has practiced in the United States Supreme Court, U.S. Federal Courts across the country, and state courts across California. Vernon has taught as an Adjunct Law Professor at the Golden Gate University School of Law.
Vernon’s international experience since law school includes serving breaking ground as the first black law clerk to the Supreme Courts of South Africa and Israel. He later returned to South Africa to build the electoral court that heard challenges during that country’s first free election. Vernon’s public service includes serving as a San Francisco prosecutor, Human Rights Commissioner, and Housing Commissioner. In addition to his current leadership of Up with People, Vernon led the rebuild and reconstruction of a cherished 125-year-old theater as Executive Director of San Francisco’s Bayview Opera House.
In his new role as Executive Director of the Kravis Lab, Grigg is well-poised to advance CMC’s mission of responsible leadership and to inspire a new generation of young people to tackle the challenges of social innovation, civic engagement, and service. Vernon is certified in Intergroup Dialogue.
Director of Social Innovation and Impact
Gemma is a multi-award-winning serial social entrepreneur having launched three social enterprises in three continents. She has won numerous social innovation and entrepreneur awards at the World Economic Forum (Best Social Entrepreneur in Asia), the United Nations (Special Recognition for Global Rights of Children) and Silicon Valley (Tech Awards) for her work around the globe. She was named one of the Top Filipina Thought Leaders and Innovators in the US (FWN) and Top 10 Water Solutions Trailblazers in the World (Reuters.org)
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Gemma still serves as the Founding Director of the Global Women’s Water Initiative, her third social enterprise. GWWI trains grassroots women in Sub-Saharan Africa to become water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) technicians, trainers and social entrepreneurs. GWWI was shortlisted for the Humanitarian Water and Food Award and Gemma presented alongside members of the US Congress at the historic launch of the USAID Water and Sanitation Strategy. Prior to stepping in to lead GWWI, Gemma co-founded A Single Drop for Safe Water (ASDSW), developing income-generating community-led water service organizations in disaster prone regions of the Philippines, winning Warriors of the Millennium Development Goals (Kodak), Tech Awards (Applied Materials, and Filipino Heroes Award (ABS-CBN).
Prior to coming to CMC, because of her work designing and launching innovative international development projects, Gemma was invited as a Social Entrepreneur en Residence at Stanford University where she co-taught a class on Social Entrepreneurship. She helped launch a social innovation curriculum where students had opportunities to engage and work alongside award-winning SocEnts through service-learning seminar courses, internships and fellowships abroad.
She is also an award winning filmmaker, music producer and performer whose film and music have received film festival accolades around the globe.
The initiative that started it all was a global movement that Gemma spearheaded after the tragedy on Sept 11. She was a professional jazz singer and pre-school teacher who called in sick on 9/11 when she was supposed to be in the WTC when the planes hit. As a singer/songwriter, she wrote a song in response called “WE RISE” and left her life, gave away all her belongings and traveled around the globe to build a million voice choir. In her worldwide travels, she was able to mobilize singers and choirs in over 100 cities in 60 countries to sing “WE RISE” from all over the planet on Sept 21, 2004, in celebration of the United Nations International Day of Peace. After being recognized at the United Nations and then winning an award from Queen Latifah and CoverGirl for women who were changing the world through music, which she used to seed fund her social enterprise in the Philippines, ASDSW. And the rest is history.
Interim Administrative Assistant
Valerie has multiple years of experience with general administration work, including customer service and engagement. She served in the San Bernardino County Sheriffs Department explorer program and was promoted to a sergeant explorer, which meant she took leadership with her team and guided each explorer to their best ability. She enforced both discipline and professionalism to her fellow members to ensure each one was on the right path.
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Val is now majoring in communications and Spanish to earn a degree in both areas to ultimately become a professional bilingual interpreter. This is for her to become the best version of herself to help other people dealing with their hardships. She has an extroverted personality, with pure intentions to have others be heard and seen. Her main goal is to leave a positive impact on each individual she encounters.