Janelle Gendrano joins National Urban Fellows with the goal of strengthening neighborhoods and communities in underserved areas. Prior to her selection for the National Urban Fellows Class of 2014, she taught in the New York City public schools, worked in higher education as an administrator and instructor, and served as a curriculum consultant and author at multiple nonprofit organizations.

The daughter of Filipino immigrants, Janelle spent part of her childhood in Newark, New Jersey, where she was exposed to the effects of inequality at an early age. This experience fostered an enduring curiosity about inequity issues and social justice, motivating her to double major and graduate summa cum laude from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Anthropology and American Studies and a minor in Political Science. At Rutgers University, Ms. Gendrano served as a Committee Director at the Institute for Domestic and International Affairs, a nonprofit civic education organization, for eight successive conferences. Because of this work and her academic achievements, she was awarded a Petrie Fellowship and full scholarship from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she graduated summa cum laude with a M.A. in Social Studies.

While teaching at a Title I middle school in Brooklyn, NY, Janelle grew acutely aware of the correlation between socioeconomic disparity and community issues, such as quality of housing, adequate healthcare, and student retention. Her involvement in her own communities, the developing Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bushwick and Crown Heights, gave her additional perspectives on the multifaceted effects of both poverty and gentrification on longtime residents in each neighborhood.

Janelle later transitioned into higher education as an advisor and instructor for Pace University’s Challenge to Achievement, a selective program that supports academically underprepared freshmen, many of whom are from low-resource communities. She also served as a curriculum consultant for New York Needs You, a nonprofit mentoring organization that provides assistance to first generation college students from disadvantaged backgrounds. When working with these student populations, Janelle saw the same obstacles that affected her secondary students become exacerbated in the college context, often limiting or preventing academic success and socioeconomic mobility.

As a National Urban Fellow, Janelle intends to advance her understanding of poverty and the infrastructural challenges faced by developing communities. She aspires to become an integral part of the socioeconomic change movement that is positively transforming low-income areas across the country.