How Danielle Empowers Students and Advocates for Educational Equity

How Danielle Empowers Students and Advocates for Educational Equity


From a young age, Danielle, a High School Equivalency Teacher at The Fortune Society, knew that teaching was her calling. Growing up in the South Bronx, Danielle remembers how her own educational experience felt like a safe haven  

“I remember my life being very dark then. But when I went to school, everything felt very alive and very lit up and bright,” she said.

She went on to pursue her dreams, working for the Department of Education for over 10 years as a Special Education Teacher. However, after justice involvement, the DOE decided to let her go, and Danielle was frustrated by the inability to continue her passion for teaching 

But when she came across an opening for a teaching position at Fortuneshe found new hope. 

“It was almost like a godsend, she said.  

During COVID-19Fortune’s Education classes have gone remote, and Danielle has worked tirelessly to meet the opportunities, challenges, and inequities presented by virtual learning. 

In addition to teaching, Danielle seeks to address inequities in education as part of Fortune’s Policy Center Collectivea group of staff working collaboratively towards social justice reform. She is a strong advocate for equitable education, firmly believing that schools need more resources and social services. 

As part of her advocacy, Danielle helped bridge a partnership between Fortune and Elite Learners, a Brownsville-based organization dedicated to providing athletic, educational, and mentorship programming to youth and their families. Fortune’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) is providing funding to Elite Learners for tutoring sessions in Brownsville.

Danielle is excited that DRCPP is supporting an organization that uses community interventions to prevent youth from entering the criminal justice system. 

“[Elite Learners] is leading the kids on a path away from prison and to opportunity,” she said.

As a teacher, Danielle knows that education is key to preventing justice involvement. Her own students have many reasons for pursuing their High School Equivalency Diploma, such as finding a job, becoming better readers, or helping their children with homework. To cultivate a joy of learning, Danielle teaches topics that are relevant to her students’ lives, preparing lessons on the Harlem Renaissance, social justice, and influential figures of color. 

“I try to keep it relevant, and I try to keep it inspirational, because I know... they're going through a lot,” she said.

She makes herself accessible to her students, getting to know them on a personal level and witnessing them go on to use their education in proactive ways. “They’re very candid with me… I try and make a space where they feel safe to open up to me and to talk about these things, she said.  

During these unprecedented times for education, Danielle says that the greatest challenges are the number of students unable to access remote learning and the difficulty of engaging her students in distracting home environments. Danielle hopes to bridge these gaps and continue encouraging individuals who have fallen through the cracks of an inequitable education system that disproportionately leads Black and brown students to the criminal justice system. 

“I told my students... even though we’re in this setting, we're survivors. We're resilient. We're not going to stop learning,” she said.

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