People Profiles|Michelle Russell

To Michelle Russell, education is everything.  And as the proud principal of TEAM Englewood Community Academy, she knows better than anyone how key it can be to a community’s success.

“I’ve always loved the work of education.  I started in this field with the belief that it’s one of the strongest ways to stop kids from killing each other.  If you educate kids and they see their options and they see opportunity, it shifts the way things happen in a neighborhood.”

Michelle is passionate about her work, and strives to make a difference in each and every one of her student’s lives.  When she first arrived at TEAM in 2015, she asked them what they really wanted for their school and their community.  The answer?  “To stop being stereotyped,” she says.  “They wanted people to see what they had to offer, and instead of looking at danger and violence all the time, they wanted people to see their beauty.”

Michelle sprung into action, and worked with her fellow teachers and administrators to increase TEAM’s academic standards and make the school a calmer, safer place.  She also enacted a community contract signed by students and parents, so that school-wide rules and expectations were crystal clear.

The results have been staggering.  This past June, 95% of TEAM’s seniors graduated, with almost 96% of them accepted to college with a plan for enrollment.  The school has also seen a 65% drop in misconduct infractions.

“I’m so proud of our students who have risen to the challenge.  They’re working to improve every day, and they’re looking for adults to push them,” she says.  “They understand that the pathway to college and career success is an increased GPA, and we’re upholding our end of the bargain by providing them with the resources and support to get there.”

She added, “I know that if we can create an environment where kids can just be kids, that will really help shift this community.  I think that’s why we’re all doing this work.  It’s exciting to think of what can happen as a result.”

This is #EnglewoodRising.

Photography by Tonika Johnson