The Gem Academy Team

Jim Hershey

Founder / Executive Director

For the last decade Jim has specialized exclusively in therapeutic work with overweight teens and young adults, with an emphasis on immersion programs, long term treatment and aftercare. He has amassed over 5000 hours of direct client work in this specialty putting Jim in a small, exclusive group of clinicians in the world. As a member of the Obesity Action Coalition Jim is a constant advocate and educator regarding the causes of obesity and effective interventions.

His work in this field began in 2007. This was after 4 years as a clinician working with college athletes in the field of sport psychology.  Jim moved from Phoenix Arizona to Fresno California to take a position at the world’s first boarding school for overweight teens. During his tenure he held the roles of therapist, clinical consultant, and program director and clinical director.

Among his peers he was known for his tireless determination and commitment to the kids and their families. Mark Twain once said, “the two most important days in a person’s life are the day they were born,  and the day they find out why.”

Shorty after Jim began his career at the boarding school his “why” was realized. “There was a level of bravery, sacrifice and hope that I would see every day in the kids.  It made you want to be the absolute best you could be for them. With everything they were bringing to the fight, they deserved every bit of that”

Jim’s dedication to the students and their families allowed him to build long standing relationships. Through Jim’s investment and continued involvement with his students and families, Jim recognized the need for a far more comprehensive support structure for recently transitioned students. This became the catalyst for Gem Academy as a long term solution for adolescent obesity.

Gem was born over a decade long process of evaluation of prior experience, refined practice, the latest health research and new research into areas of achievement, performance, habit formation and character. But the most critical influence into building Gem has been the shared personal experiences of hundreds of students over the last ten years. Sharing their successes and challenges has created a better understanding of what is critically needed to support these students for the long run.

Through his professional and educational pursuits Jim has had diverse and eclectic experiences as a tradesman, working musician, on-air radio personality, and collegiate athlete and captain.

Jim is a Wisconsin native but has been a resident of the Phoenix area for 11 of the last 15 years. He and his wife have a four and a half year old little boy and a 18 month old baby girl.



Ashley Norwood MA, LAC

Program Director


Ashley Norwood, MA, LAC is a licensed associate counselor who has experience working with teens, adults, and first responders. Ashley specializes in trauma of varying degrees such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and single incident trauma. Ashley has been practicing in the field for 3 years and is currently working on her independent licensure. She is trained in EMDR and is receiving further training in this specialty to help strengthen her skills.

Ashley received her degree from Argosy University in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a background in criminal justice, “I have always been drawn to helping others.” Ashley’s compassionate style allows clients to open up while being challenged to incorporate new concepts to create lasting change. Helping to relieve emotional distress, Ashley assists in getting to the root of the problem that has resulted in depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues.

Ashley has been consistently recognized for her dedication, professionalism and selflessness in every role she has held professionally. Outside of the office Ashley enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and 3 dogs!


Lindsay Schwartz RD

Nutrition & Culinary Director


As not only a registered dietitian but also a professionally trained chef, Lindsay has a passion for education and empowering others to reach their health goals through promoting evidence-based nutrition. She focuses on helping others become equipped with the skills to feel confident with their eating habits and cooking abilities. She enjoys experimenting with new recipes, flavors and food photography. 

Lindsay is originally from New England where she received her degrees in culinary arts from the prestigious Johnson & Wales University. Her last 7 years in the field have encompassed a dietetic internship at Keene State College, focusing on community wellness and health promotion, Diet and Fitness Resorts, teaching cooking classes and supporting guests through their weight loss journeys and performing outreach doing culinary demonstrations and education for community programs in which free produce is given to clients with samples and recipe guidance. 

Since Lindsay is new to the Phoenix area, she looks forward to exploring the Southwest and enjoying the sunnier days. She enjoys reading, board games, hiking and trying new restaurants. 

Dawn Thomas M.Ed

Academic Director


Dawn brings a heartfelt passion for education to the Academic Director position of Gem Academy. As a licensed principal she has over eight years of experience being part of school administrative teams. Her career started as an English Specialist, having the opportunity to train and model effective strategies for teachers to increase student achievement. In 2007, she assisted in the opening of a brand new K-6 school in as an Assistant Principal. In the last 7 years, she’s attained analytical data-mining expertise, while simultaneously helping to improve school-wide accountability through the coaching, mentoring and supporting of teachers, administration and staff both in both the online and brick and mortar environments. As an administrator, curriculum and instruction specialist/director and English Specialist, she has illustrated the ability to lead a team successfully, but also to work as an integral member to achieve profound outcomes!

She chose the Gem Academy team first and foremost for the mission rooted in the wholeness of each individual girl that attends Gem Academy by teaching them skills to last a lifetime. Secondly, she wanted to bring extensive experience with online academic delivery, curriculum and learning management systems specific for online learning. Finally, her passion in education is teaching, guiding, counseling and mentoring all students, teachers, and staff who have a desire to achieve greatness and overcome the bumps in the road that will lead to each individual’s success.

When she is away from Gem Dawn enjoys spending time with family, reading and photography.


Stacie MacArthur

Clinical Director


Stacie MacArthur, M.Ed, LPC, CCTS is a Licensed Professional Counselor and an AZ Board Certified Clinical Supervisor who has experience working with concerns like anxiety, depression, loss & grief, self-esteem issues, identity development, and adolescent/emerging adult counseling. Over the past 15 years Stacie has developed a strong focus on trauma work, incorporating neurophysiology as a large component of her practice. She is a Certified Clinical Trauma Specialist with the International Association of Trauma Professionals.

Stacie built her career working in both agency and private practice settings where she provided individual and group counseling as well as Equine Assisted Therapy. She moved into the role of Clinical Director at Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte, NC) and subsequently the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health center here in Phoenix. Because Stacie’s first love is working directly with clients using a holistic and comprehensive approach, she joined the dynamic team at GEM Academy in early 2018.

When not working Stacie enjoys running, hiking, reading, and spending time with family & friends.


Karen Geyer LMSW

Primary Therapist


Karen believe that self-acceptance and hope are the foundation to inner peace. The importance of loving and forgiving oneself is vital to moving in a positive direction and embracing emotional and physical well being Karen’s clients know that they are in good hands in their very first interaction with her. Her smart, kind approach draws people to her and her clients experience forward movement in her goal-oriented style. Gem students appreciate Karen’s strength-based approach and ways in which this opens new doors for them. 

Karen is a trained EMDR therapist (Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing) assisting in resolving trauma including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She also utilizes modalities such as CBT, Family Systems and Person-Centered to customize an approach that best suits the student. 

Karen is  native of Montana who enjoys traveling and is an avid reader. She has been to 48 states, numerous countries and has worked with abandoned children in Romania. Karen enjoys country living and the AZ mountains with her husband.