Grace Asenjo considers her placement as a National Urban Fellow with Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone a homecoming. From an early age, the Washington Heights, New York native valued the benefits and responsibilities of neighborhood life. Neighbors and community leaders were instrumental in assisting her family through hardships associated with single-parenthood, immigration, and poverty. Local organization Alianza Dominicana gave Grace her first job as a teen through which she helped inform neighborhood residents about STDs, teen pregnancy, and safe sex. Teachers and mentors fostered her passion for learning, driving her to become academically motivated and eventually leading her to receive a scholarship to attend New York University.

Since graduating from NYU in 2007, Grace has worked in the child development and education fields.  Starting with a privately owned enrichment facility on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she transitioned to working as Executive Administrator of Minor Miracles Foundation, a grassroots organization committed to ending childhood obesity in Astoria, Queens. It was here that Grace’s fire for public service was lit. Tasked with fundraising, programming, and outreach, she forged through sleepless nights and unsteady paychecks, enjoying the fruits of her labor almost immediately. With limited funds and only a handful of staff members, Minor Miracles served over 1,300 adolescents in its first year.

Most recently, Grace taught children of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Initially her work focused on elementary students in an after-school program in the South Bronx and children with special needs. She was promoted within a year to Supervisor, where her role as delegate between management and staff was instrumental in prompting changes in programming, client interaction, and training.

Grace is thrilled to give back to the very same communities that first inspired her to work with under-served populations. As a National Urban Fellow, she is looking forward to effecting positive change in Inwood, Washington Heights, and Harlem, making them great places to work, live, and play.