Humans of Cranston

Posted 1/17/23

Humans of Cranston is a recurring column showcasing the stories of Cranston residents’ community involvement, diversity and unique life perspectives.

Marlene Gamba has a passion for theatre, …

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Humans of Cranston


Humans of Cranston is a recurring column showcasing the stories of Cranston residents’ community involvement, diversity and unique life perspectives.

Marlene Gamba has a passion for theatre, loves teaching The Great Gatsby to students and spent 20 years as the principal of Edgewood Highlands. She is a lifelong Cranston resident and resides in Garden City.

“I’m a third generation Italian. My grandparents from both sides – my mom’s and my dad’s – came here from Italy, so my parents were what today would be called multi-language learners. But when they went to school, there were no MLL programs …. So my father’s father bought the usual three family house in Providence and all the family lived in the house. Believe it or not, my parents met at St. Mary’s Feast… he went off in the service and began writing to my mom. So it’s quite the love story. They got married in 1947 and (back then you lived with your parents to save money to buy a home) so my mother and father moved in with my grandmother and grandfather in Providence and then he worked in a foundry and my mom worked in an office.

I always wanted to be a teacher. When I lived on Gladstone Street there was a school across the street from my house called Bennett Avenue School. The house I lived in on Gladstone Street, if you go by it now, used to be a gas station. So the front part of the house – if you really look at it – you can tell that’s the building you went in and paid. Across the street was Mr. Ginolfi who happened to be the custodian for Bennett Avenue School. We got to know him… and he knew I liked to play school so he gave me two wooden desks with a drawer, put them downstairs and I played school constantly. Then they closed Bennett Avenue and then they knocked it down and I went to Gladstone Street School. We got a bigger home and moved to Glen Hills.

I got an early acceptance to Emerson [College] and loved it. I was finally with my kind of people. I went ‘wow they’re all like me this is wonderful,’ and I majored in speech communication …. So I started at Attleboro High School; I was student teaching speech …. My dream was to be a reading consultant in Cranston. Suddenly, I see my dream job in the paper – title 1 reading consultant needed for Cranston. I started at Cranston West and I would work with the kids who came over from East who were in the vocational program and were title one students. I would work with them on their reading scores …. [Eventually the district] needed a new principal for Edgewood.

When I look at my life, I feel that I get a challenge, then I get bored and I have to pick a new challenge. The last day that I was there [at Edgewood as principal] last year I thanked them [the staff] because my dream came true because running a school is very much like being a director of a Broadway show. So every day you’re trying to make every act, every teacher, be their best. So you try to help the character build their character and I said to them ‘we are the longest running show in Cranston.’ I’ve been in this role for 20 years, I think we need to get someone else in. And I can remember we were all teary-eyed at everything and I think of the song I sang that day from Chorus Line ‘What I did for Love,’ and I looked back that’s when I understood all my paths. It’s true, every decision I made was based on love.

Now, I’m writing a book – my memoirs I guess you’d call it. I’ve got 17 chapters done. I always wanted to write a book …. I should be done soon, hopefully in a couple of months. So when I was at Edgewood, I had started writing it before I got sick and I would come in and read chapters to the kids like from my life. They loved it and I would tell them about all my cousins. Its been a fulfilling journey and we are going to upload some pictures when it’s done. It’s been a journey – maybe it will be a Netflix series, I don’t know.”

This project has been made possible by a Rhode Island Foundation Community Grant and the efforts of the OneCranston Health Equity Zone of Comprehensive Community Action, Inc. in partnership with the Cranston Herald and Timothy McFate. The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of Humans of Cranston participants do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the aforementioned parties. The presented stories are voluntarily provided, unpaid, and given verbatim except for correcting grammatical errors. Want to nominate a Cranston resident to be featured? Email JB at jfulbright@comcap.org.

humans, Marlene


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