Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Lisa-Stephanie. We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.
I am from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti – the first Black republic in the Americas. Colonized, then indebted as a result of our freedom, this same land of fruitful mangoes and political passion taught me the value of education and the importance of my voice.
At an early age, I learned that literacy is the key in uplifting any community, and that the power of language can shift the course of a nation. In my country, grammar school is an incredible privilege. And boy, was I privileged! Having grown up in a land of political turmoil and poverty, my parents taught me that my education was not only going to be the key to unlocking my aspirations – but most importantly it would be my key to survival. At a young age, I quickly began to understand the impact of systemic racism in the States, including being denied quality educational experiences. My parents made incredible sacrifices to bring us to a country where children have access to schools. But my teachers could not understand what my brother and I were trying to say, so we were shrugged off and made to wait in the school library until the end of the day. Little did they know that a small room stacked with books in South Miami would be the greatest English teacher of my childhood.
The politics of the early 2000s made it quite easy for educators to leave students to fend for themselves, and sadly many of our developmental and educational needs were overlooked. This fueled my passion for equitable and accessible educational and mental-wellness-related resources and experiences. Consequently, I became an educator myself. I first started in the field of Special Education, where it is impossible to separate political policies and the classroom. With a desire to reconstruct and reimagine the educational system, I then began to branch out into youth programming. In my seven years of teaching, I learned that a holistic approach to educational services with opportunities for creative expression can truly change the course of any child’s development.
My experiences in the field and in seeking higher education only solidified the fact that an entire country’s faith, such as my own, can rely on the power of language and literacy – and how the lack thereof can have a detrimental impact. I strongly believe that education is the key to growth and that equitable and quality academic experiences have a long-term community and global impact.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career?
My culture, history, and grandmother’s passion for community inspired me to pursue a career in education and community work as my ancestors paved the way for black liberation in Latin America – just as equitable educational experiences will not become a reality without social justice and liberation. My country’s history ultimately taught us the phrase “Union Creates Strength.” With that being said, my journey in becoming an advocate for accessibility in the educational world has always reminded me that the pursuit of our collective growth can always lead to abundant growth.
What is one thing you are most proud of achieving in your life?
I am profoundly proud of being a first-generation graduate student and of becoming the first generation of clinical clinicians (as an art therapist) in my family as well!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would not have been able to achieve any of my academic and professional goals without my family’s sacrifices. My parents did all that they could to provide my siblings and me with a future of opportunity when we immigrated to the U.S. I am always grateful for my father’s hard work to ensure my access to a primary education!
What do you enjoy most about teaching/tutoring, Lisa-Stephanie?
I enjoy the excitement and creativity that comes with teaching the most! Like creating hip-hop songs about shapes or collaborating with my students to hold space for important discussions. I believe that the best part about teaching is that we are all constantly learning and making mistakes, and the ability to share these experiences as a team can be so empowering!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love taking walks during my free time! It’s a great chance to slow down and to take in everything around me. It’s also a great way to explore and get to know my community more as well!
Is there something exciting you are working on now? What is it and why did you choose to start it?
I am currently working on earning my graduate degree in Art Therapy! I am so excited because I think that art is such a powerful tool to work alongside both education and mental wellness. I love project-based learning activities and spaces for expression and when one participates in creative outlets, every part of the brain is working! It’s incredible!
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? What is it and why did it resonate with you?
Edwidge Danticat’s “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work” is by far the most inspiring book that I have ever read. I actually revisit it every now and then! Danticat powerfully expresses how impactful language can be – and how creativity is a key to revolution. This collection of short stories is particularly close to my heart because they relate to Haitian freedom and the diaspora. The greatest lesson that I learned from this story is that our voices are so powerful and we all deserve to be heard.
What are you most passionate about? Can you share a story?
I am most passionate about the accessibility of equitable and quality educational, art, and wellness-related resources and services. There are so many unjust systemic barriers that exist, and my family and I – amongst many others in this country – have been deeply affected by these injustices throughout the years. I am dedicated to continuing to work alongside my colleagues to reimagine the educational system and redefine access to care.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private lunch and why? He/she might just see this! 🙂
I would love to have an opportunity to have lunch with Eve L. Ewing! She is such an inspiration in both her fight for equitable education and for her creation of Riri Williams / Ironheart in Marvel!