Meet the candidate.
IT STARTED WITH A JOB OFFER
Michelle began her teaching career at 14 when she was hired to coach gymnastics. One afternoon, a parent of one of her young athletes changed Michelle's life by offering her a job. As soon as she graduated from college, she took him up on his offer.
That man was Professor Jamie Raskin and the job was running the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project at Washington College of Law (WCL), which sent law students into high schools to teach constitutional law and voter rights classes. That offer of employment shaped Michelle’s future—setting her on a path of serving those in need, and shaping and empowering those around her.
AS A TEACHER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
After four years of running the Marshall-Brennan Program, Michelle took a job as a Budget Analyst at American University for a higher paycheck to buy a home, but quickly realized that using her financial skills was only worthwhile if she was helping others. She quickly started formulating a plan to return to education, this time by tackling the problem of financial illiteracy among at-risk teens and young adults. To accomplish this, Michelle partnered with Andrew Sandler, a successful financial services lawyer, to create the Financial Literacy Foundation (FLF). Committed to reaching the most disadvantaged students, FLF instructors taught workshops in juvenile correctional facilities, homeless shelters, after-school programs, as well as elective classes in Washington, D.C. public and charter high schools. Focused primarily in Southeast D.C., Michelle had the privilege of teaching thousands of amazing students while dealing with grant writing, finances, and curriculum development as the executive director. Working with Greater Washington Urban League, Michelle developed a curriculum for their Young Professionals program, and consulted with the Kinsey Institute to develop the financial literacy requirements for the Capital Gains program. Over time, Michelle was considered an expert on financial literacy for urban youth and was elected to serve as the Chair of Education for the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, and on the board of directors of Financial Education & Literacy Advisors.
AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
After nearly four years of running the Financial Literacy Foundation, Michelle was pulled in a different direction. Most of her family members were gymnastics instructors and yearned for a gym that shared their vision of a place where all kids could be successful. Michelle took $60,000 from the sale of her home and, in 2009, started Dynamite Gymnastics Center. Soon after came The Agility Center, Dynamite Tumbling & Cheer, Bolt Parkour & Freerunning Academy, and Motion Education, a recreational therapy program for kids with special needs. The mission of Dynamite gyms is to create a great place where all kids, regardless of ability, can learn life skills, feel confident in their bodies, and develop a love of movement. Motion Education gives kids with special needs the opportunity to play and learn alongside their peers in a stigma-free environment.
Owning a business gives Michelle the opportunity to help more than the kids who come to learn and play; she is in a position to provide jobs for teenagers and adults who are not eligible to work in other fields because they lack formal education. Very few Dynamite employees have college degrees, but they bring their talent and passion for teaching, which is all they need to be successful. Of the gym's four managers, all are minorities and/or women and only one has a bachelor's degree. All of the gym managers worked their way up through the company--three started as teachers, one as the janitor who became a teacher and then a manager. Today, the companies have more than 100 employees and are visited by more than 2,000 kids and their families each week.
Michelle has a B.S. in Agricultural & Natural Resource Economics with a concentration in Business, and graduated cum laude with a Juris Doctorate from American University Washington College of Law focusing on Education Law, specifically school compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. She lives in the Randolph Hills community in North Bethesda with her daughter Kylin and her dog Bozley.