Gaelen grew up in a small town on Whidbey Island, in Washington State. She received her B.A. in International Relations and Public Policy from Western Washington University in 2010. From a young age Gaelen aspired to serve others. This prompted extensive engagement with humanitarian causes and eventually led her to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), where she obtained a M.A. in International Development Policy in 2015. After graduating from MIIS, Gaelen worked in Peru with the AASD for four years as the Director of Experiential Learning. Gaelen has now transitioned back to the states but continues to support the AASD as the President of the Board.