A Puerto Rican youth development leader talks about the lasting damage a teacher caused her by denying her culture and history and the importance of valuing student identities, voices, and ideas.
Executive Director of MIKVA Challenge
Michelle is currently the president of the Woods Fund Chicago, a foundation that is committed to centering racial equity and honoring the art of organizing and advocacy, and is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago. Previously, she served as executive director for Mikva’s Chicago office, and brings with her over 20 years of experience in youth development. Having worked as a teacher at an alternative high school in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community, Michelle saw first hand how disempowerment and marginalization affects many students of color—often leading young people to engage in risky choices that can impact their lives. The alternative high school taught Michelle the power of engagement and self-actualization and how respecting youth, their ideas, and their voices is not only transformational for the young people involved, but also for all those around them. Michelle firmly believes that young people—once empowered and civically engaged can change the landscape of Chicago and the nation.
Michelle has extensive experience specifically working with non-profit, community-based organizations that impact communities of color in the Chicago area. She has a B.A. in Latin American Studies from DePaul University, an M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University. Michelle is also a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago.