The Gem Academy Team
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 six year old little boy and a three year old baby girl.
Ashley Norwood MA, LPC
Ashley Norwood, MA, LPC is a licensed Professional 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.
Outside of the office Ashley enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and 2 dogs!
Shay McCadney BS
Culinary & Nutrition Director
Shay comes to Gem from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the prestigious Johnson & Wales University where she earned two distinguished degrees in Culinary Arts and Food Science. During her education she completed a rigorous culinary internship with Walt Disney World under their renowned customer service model. She has been working in the field of culinary arts for the last twelve years.
Culinary Arts and Nutrition encompass her passions entirely and this love of food has led her to working with the Gem team. Food has been a big part of Shay’s life, as cooking has been a family tradition for as long as she can remember. In previous years, Shay has spent her time teaching and imparting culinary wisdom to students of any age. While living in her hometown, Shay ran a healthy food prep service dedicated to helping clients reach their nutrition and dietary goals while also enjoying their food. This business allowed her to make personalized plans and work with each client individually, so that they felt a personal connection to his or her health.
Knowing her own journey to health, Shay felt the desire to give back and contribute so others could know the freedom of living a healthy life. This was the pull to join the Gem team because the mission worked directly with her personal values. Creating an environment that allows for comfort and understanding when it comes to food is incredibly important to Shay. Her main objectives at Gem are to inspire those who are looking for a better relationship with food and to continue the Gem tradition that foods that support health can be flavorful, diverse and desirable!
She also has always had a passion for working with children and has spent summers working as a counselor with the Children’s Theater Camp of Charlotte.
While Shay is not at work, she spends most of her time crafting and creating her new home in Arizona. In every respect, Shay is a creative soul and wishes to impart that love of creativity to every student at Gem Academy.
Dawn Thomas M.Ed
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.
Beth Tsai BA, CPT, CES
Personal Trainer & Community Mentor
Beth is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist and a Youth Exercise Specialist. She has been independently training her own clientele for over two years, focusing on young women.
Her goal is to use fitness as a means to simultaneously build external strength as well as internal strength and self-confidence.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in Family Studies with a minor in Behavioral Health from Arizona Christian University. She has experience working with youth in sport and recreation, general and special education, behavioral health in residential settings.
Beth is an Arizona Native and enjoys weight lifting and reading in her free time.