Roma Education: Emma Sisson's Mission From Tennessee to Transylvania

May 11, 2024
Explore the transformative journey of Emma Sisson from teaching in Memphis to becoming School Director of The Mission in Transylvania

The story my guest will tell today is of her experience growing up and teaching in Memphis, Tennessee before finding a purpose-driven career change in - I am not joking - the heart of Transylvania. Emma Sisson is the School Director of The Mission School in Sig-ee-shuara, Romania. 

The work of The Mission, Romania is deeply rooted in the local community in Sighisoara and, as you’ll hear Emma describe it, homebase is an 80,000 sq ft abandoned Soviet textile mill where staff live, work, house a K-3 school, and provide family wrap-around services to Romani children and families. 

Romani, or Roma, are a historically enslaved and oppressed underclass in Europe, in Romania in particular, where they are often slandered as a lazy, thieving, “gypsy” underclass. In 2022 the European Union reported that 80% of Roma live in poverty, compared to the 17% EU average. 1 in 5 live in households with no running water. 1 in 3 have no indoor toilet. And fewer than half of Roma children attend early childhood education. The scathing report prompted the EU director of Fundamental Human Rights to ask, “Why do Roma across Europe still face shocking levels of deprivation, marginalization, and discrimination?” 

Overcoming structural discrimination and prejudice against Roma people is a key part of The Mission’s mission. The Mission School also works to preserve Roma values and language in the context of education, expressed as a preference for family apprenticeships, experiential hands-on learning, and a rich oral tradition, that have historically put them at odds with the priorities of institutional school-based literacies.

On the other side of the Atlantic, The Mission international is currently recovering from a devastating fire that destroyed their entire campus headquarters in Tijuana, Mexico that served over 500 at-risk youth, so if you’d like to learn more and donate to help support Emma’s work in Romania and rebuild the Tijuana campus, you can do that at 



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