Meet Our Team

Anabel was born in California and is a proud Westcoast baby. Anabel and her family moved to Chicago when she turned 7 and began attending Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Since early on, Anabel enjoyed being a part of extracurricular activities and building a sense of community outside of her home. Anabel would wake up extra early to be a part of the computer club and play games during elementary school and would go on to do the same in high school for other clubs, such as student council. Anabel’s interest in pursuing education came early on when a few recruiters from Instituto del Progreso Latino came to her high school to engage students in the Escalera College Bridge Program. Anabel has been a part of the Instituto community since her teen years and is excited to be back in her role as a Clinician to offer support to the IJLA community.
Anabel has a Bachelors in Criminal Justice from Loyola University and a Masters in Mental Health Counseling from National Louis University and considers herself a lifelong learner. Anabel has a variety of experience with her undergrad in Human Resources, negotiations with contracts and filing immigration visas in the outsource field, and as a paralegal/research support in the court system. After gaining experience in the legal side of community work, after becoming a mother, Anabel switched her career towards mental health.  Her goal continues be to provide resources and provide mental health access to underserved communities. Anabel began her mental health journey at Gads Hill Center (GHC), in Pilsen, as an intern, and 2 years later has returned as a team member.
Since her internship and graduation in 2018, Anabel has gained experience in the psychiatric hospital setting as a milieu counselor, she also has experience as a Trauma Therapist providing individual, family and group therapy to minors, foster parents and biological parents for adoption or reunification in the DCFS system. Her most recent role was a Community Crisis Therapist providing therapy services to individuals discharged from psychiatric/ behavioral hospitals with complex diagnosis and/ or safety plans to provide the continuity of aftercare with psychiatric assessment needs. She has also provided individual, family and group therapy to a variety of clientele with different backgrounds and stages in their lives.
In Anabel’s current role, she provides support to IJLA part time, and during the other part time she provides support with the GHC Children’s Services Department (CSD) by providing parent and staff workshops, consultations, and individual/ group/ family/ couples therapy. Her current role also consists of community engagement by providing mental health awareness and offering community workshops in relation to civil unrest, cultural humility, stress management, and other relevant mental health related topics.
For self-care, Anabel loves practicing yoga, has recently begun practicing Pilates and exercising regularly to ensure a work/ life balance to be able to spend quality time with her 2 babies and family.
Anabel is extremely excited to be a part of a committed and passionate team at IJLA!
Anton Miglietta grew up in the community of Uptown, Chicago from 1978 to today and attended Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as a child. Following in his mother’s footsteps, Anton became a teenage community-youth organizer in Uptown and citywide. He co-organized several education & recreation programs targeting marginalized youth including the Rise and Shine Morning Program, Youth on Youth Summer School, and the Uptown Youth F.O.R.C.E. He received his undergraduate degree from Northeastern Illinois University and completed his masters at Chicago State University (M.Ed.). Anton taught in alternative schools for ten years, becoming the Social Justice Curriculum Coordinator at Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy and lead organizer of the annual citywide Social Justice Student Expos (2004-‘08). In ‘08, Anton stepped out of the classroom to care for his 2nd daughter and form the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce, an organization he and others founded to advance culturally relevant curricula. He co-authored Urban Renewal or Urban Removal? A Grassroots Look at Chicago’s Land Grabs and the Struggle for Home and Community, published in 2012, as well as the Grassroots Curriculum Toolkit. Returning to the classroom in 2016, Anton gained his National Board Certification (NBCT) while teaching at Instituto Justice Leadership Academy in Pilsen. Currently, Anton is honored to support his students in centering Latinx history in specific, and peoples’ histories in general, at the Chicago History Museum through a dynamic student-led collaboration that also includes the Newberry Library and Art Institute of Chicago. Most recently, Anton and his life partner, Lindsay Smith, wrote a short piece entitled, Inspiring Students Means Embracing Culturally Responsive Teaching (The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges, 2021, Routledge Books).
Carina Gutierrez was born and raised in Little Village. She has been working at IJLA for 6 years. Currently, she serves as the Admissions Registrar & Clerk. She is also an IJLA graduate (Class of 2009). Ever since she was a student, she wanted to be part of the IJLA team. She dreamt of one day coming back to make a difference in students' life just like how the staff had done for her.  Carina graduated from National Louis University last May with a BA in Human Services/Psychology and plans to continue her education so that she can better assist the youth and families that IJLA serves in the community. Helping others is something she loves to do and she hopes that in the future, she can continue doing that as a Youth Social Worker.
Edwin is a proud 90’s LA baby, lover of his Central American roots, Circle practitioner & a work in progress. His involvement in youth empowerment began at the age of 16 as the youth group leader of a small church in South Central LA. This inspired him to become more involved in working alongside youth in the hood and practicing restorative justice principles. He has served in a variety of youth roles such as: mentor, teacher, environmental justice organizer, digital media storyteller, after school program coordinator- among other life giving opportunities. Those experiences brought Edwin to Rudy where he served his first 2 years as the Dean of Culture and Counselor. As of this year he has transitioned into his new role as the Digital Media Instructor and Counselor and is LOOOOOOOOVING IT!
Elisabethe started her career in education as administrator for Urban Alliance, a non-profit that seeks to provide seniors in high school with post-secondary skills and support. As a first-generation college student, Elisabethe decided to focus on supporting students inside and outside the classroom. Elisabethe began her teaching career as a Learning Specialist in Chicago through Teach for America, while earning a Master’s degree in Special Education at Relay Graduate School of Education. Elisabethe, who is a Diverse Learner herself, makes a unique connection and relationship with the students she serves. As the Learning Specialist and Case Manager of IJLA, Elisabethe is grateful and honored to be part of a community that is dedicating their work to dismantling the stereotypes and biases of Special Education and traditional schooling. Elisabethe states, “IJLA is more than a school, it’s a family.”
Elliott was born and raised in Pilsen.  In 2006 he graduated from Benito Juarez High School.  Elliott has a BA in History. He has been working with Instituto for 8 years, and is the Dean of Students at IJLA.  Elliott loves working there because it is a great space for him to teach students freely, from historical events to life skills to challenging traditional notions of masculinity.
Fabiana graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016 with a major in English Education and a minor in Italian. Soon after graduating, she went on to work at Foreman High School where she taught English as a Second Language and Photography. Later, she went to work at Rickover Naval Academy where she taught Honors English and Advanced Placement Literature. Though these classes were exciting to teach, she knew she wanted to shift her teaching and curriculum to be more representative of her students and more project-based, which is how she ended up at IJLA. Fabiana is incredibly grateful to have found a space that not only uses a restorative model, but that also focuses heavily on developing social justice curriculum.
Gaby is from Ecuador and has been living in the United States for 10 years. While she was a mother at a young age, balancing many responsibilities, she was determined to succeed in this country. Adapting to a new culture and language, Gaby was able to get her Bachelor's degree in Computer Science at Northeastern University in 2013. After she graduated, she continued working in a family-owned company, and at the same time, volunteered tutoring kids and youth with assignments and projects. She realized that her passion was to help others who had trouble with education, especially due to language barriers. She decided to become a teacher, and she found an opportunity at IJLA. As a teacher at IJLA, she has been able to advocate for students whose second language is English and incorporate technology in her classes, giving students the opportunity to dabble into the different pathways that this increasingly technological world offers.

Jennifer started her career as an English Learner teacher in Washington, DC while earning a Master's degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at American University. Seeing the impact she could make as a teacher leader, she later served as an Environmental Science Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua, an Instructional Coach in Chile, a Project-Based Learning Teacher Trainer in the Czech Republic, and an English Language Specialist in Perú.  In California, Jennifer worked on establishing a newcomer program for recent refugees from Central America as she earned a Master's degree in Educational Leadership at UC Berkeley.  She is currently earning her doctoral degree at the University of Illinois in Education, Policy, Organization, and Leadership with a Global Studies focus.  As principal of IJLA, Jennifer is grateful to be part of a community that is dedicated to social justice and to providing a safe space for youth and families to unlock their full potential and disrupt oppressive systems.

Miguel Guevara was born, raised and is currently living in the Little Village neighborhood. He began teaching citizenship at IDPL in 2003 where he found his calling as an educator under the leadership and support of Sonia Gaete. He transitioned to the Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy a year later where he spent a decade serving students that had been pushed or pulled out of their previous educational institutions. During this time, he was blessed to have met and worked with amazing staff that have influenced not only his teaching but helped him grow as a person.  His journey has brought him be back to the place he called home. He is excited, honored and humbled to be part of such a great organization. IJLA is truly a familia and he's looking forward to the work ahead.  Miguel is a lifelong learner who values collaboration and critical discourse with the goal of empowering our community.
El futuro de nuestro pueblo está en la juventud.
Con el propio alimento de educación y amor,
crecerán hacer las aspiraciones de nuestros antepasados.
Sebastian Zamora graduated from Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy in March of 2020. Overcoming significant barriers, he graduated high school in less than 3 years and since then has joined IJLA staff, assisting the community with financial and food relief during the pandemic and tutoring current students who need extra support, such as IJLA's English Learners.  Sebastian is currently working towards a double bachelor's degree in Social Work and Elementary Education/Special Education at Western Governor University. Sebastian is driven by the motto of educator Rita Pierson, “Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”
Valeria Berrum (Vale) graduated from Illinois State University in 2018 where she majored in social work. Shortly after she began working with The Illinois Student Assistance Commission, where she worked with students and their families in exploring their post secondary education options, gave financial aid presentations, and led FAFSA and college application workshops. Valeria chose to pursue school social work after reflecting on the positive impact school social workers played in her life. The social workers in her life equipped her with the tools to recognize, manage, and learn from emotions which helped her build positive relationships with her community. She graduated from University of Illinois Chicago in 2021 with her MSW.  Vale is grateful to be part of such a supportive team and is looking forward to learning from the students and educators at IJLA.
Aside from being an educator, Val is a poet, activist, abolitionist, restorative justice practitioner, avid crafter, and lifelong learner. She also laughs really loudly and is a fan of long sentences. She grew up in Berwyn, IL and moved on to graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011 with a major in English and a double minor in Gender and Women’s Studies and Secondary Education. She continued her education at National Louis University, graduating in 2017 with a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on bilingual education. Her first experience teaching at a large high school highlighted the injustices and inequities in the educational system, and she found her place at Rudy as a math teacher in 2017 by pure chance, or perhaps fate. Since then Val has worked in collaboration with the team here to transform the math curriculum, among other disciplines, from traditional to culturally relevant and meaningful learning. She is especially passionate about making academics accessible to English Language Learners and more gender-inclusive. She enjoys long talks after school in her classroom and ordering pizza on occasion. She can probably answer 80% of the random questions you have.
Vanessa Marcelo transferred from Lane Tech High School in August of 2019, joining the IJLA family and graduating in January of 2020. She wouldn’t have enrolled if it wasn’t for her aunt, Carina Gutierrez, (Admissions Registrar & Clerk) who persuaded her to join the IJLA familia. From her short time as a student, Vanessa knew that IJLA was a place she wanted to be. From online facilitator to alumni coordinator to now Special Programs Director, Vanessa has done a little bit of everything. At times, she is the first face you see when you walk into the school. Vanessa is currently working towards getting her Associate’s Degree in English Education at Malcolm X College, in hopes of becoming an English teacher.
Verónica Ramírez graduated from Indiana University with her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and spent the early part of her career teaching primary-aged students in Gifted Education and English Language Learner programs. She completed her masters degree at Concordia University in Curriculum and Instruction with an EL Endorsement. As the School Programs coordinator with the Chicago Zoological Society, her focus was Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and teacher training. Verónica's time there culminated with a trip to Botswana, Africa where she spent a week training and collaborating with community multipliers within the discipline of science. Upon her return to the classroom she moved to a middle school science position and her passion for quality educational opportunities for every student continued to grow. She has volunteered her time as a Trustee for the WSSRA (West Suburban Special Recreation Association) since 2017 and has served as the Diversity Board Member for the local AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) since early 2021. Both organizations champion inclusivity and work on behalf of all children; especially cognizant of those children who have been traditionally and systemically overlooked, marginalized, and underserved. She is beyond excited to join IJLA as the science teacher and EL Coordinator. Verónica has a passion for the endless possibilities of science within the context of social justice and is eager to begin collaborating with her new students, colleagues, and community. Outside of the classroom Verónica's passion lies in family, nature, unexpected art, all genres of music, daily doses of exercise endorphins, and of course, coffee!
Zoë graduated from Northwestern University in 2017 with a double major in Theatre and Creative Writing. She went on to work with College Possible as an AmeriCorps member. College Possible is a non-profit organization based in Chicago that works to decrease the degree divide between upper and lower-income students. She worked with a cohort of 40 students for their Junior and Senior years and helped them with SAT prep, the college application process, FAFSA, scholarships, and more. After leaving College Possible, she knew she wanted to continue to work with students to help them follow their post-secondary goals, which is how she ended up at IJLA. Here, she works with students to find and follow their goals, both during and after graduation.