Teamwork makes the dream work
Janelle bechdol, founder & ceo
Janelle is an artivist from New York. Her life’s work is centered on leveraging the power of popular movements to uplift the dreams, spirits and collective future of young people. For eight years, Janelle worked for Ernst & Young (EY) to lead their national education efforts, developing a program called College Mentoring for Access and Persistence to support first-generation high school students through the college process. After becoming a participant on American Idol, Janelle founded the Hall Pass Tour, which started out as a concert series that traveled the country to get kids excited about their dreams. But she quickly realized the power of the hall pass as a means to help all people thrive in their purpose.
Janelle has a white father and African American mother. Although she has eight siblings, she is the only mixed-race member of her family. She works through the intersectionality of her identity in her social justice work and harnesses the powers of narrative, purpose and creativity to inspire positive change. Janelle attended the University at Albany, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and communication, with a minor in music. In 2014, Janelle earned a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She currently lives in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn where she is a musician, educator and orator.
Christina utley, operations
Christina Utley is from St. Louis and spent several years serving low-income youth in rural Missouri as a substitute teacher, private tutor and mentor. Since moving to New York in 2016, Christina has served as a project and operations manager for several social enterprises. Christina has a degree in creative writing and is the co-editor for an online literary magazine. In every space she occupies, she works to expand the perception of a thriving community to include 1) the freedom to express personal identity, 2) a celebration of differences as assets with inherent value, and 3) a collective articulation of those ideals. She loves tacos and believes that Disney’s Moana has a lot to offer on the subject of purpose and identity.
michael ferron, student engagement
As a Brooklyn native, Michael is well versed in the needs of underrepresented and underserved communities. Michael graduated from Daemen College with a B.A. in Social Work. Over the last four years, he has worked with the NYC DOE and youth organizations to provide resources and support to underserved students. He has worked on crisis intervention with families, youth development, college access and success. Mike’s work focuses on curriculum development, program analysis, community-informed organizing and workshop facilitation. His personal education journey and passion for enhancing the socioemotional development of students has allowed him to thrive as an educator.