Hello, my name is Michelle. That’s my high school yearbook photograph. It was taped to my name tag for our 30th High School reunion. During high school, I lived outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I was fortunate and lived abroad in Paris, Sao Paulo and Tel Aviv. This privilege was often at odds with unpacking family of origin stuff and sexual harassment at school. “Hostile Hallways,” were my experience in middle school and predatory behavior was normalized. At the bottom of this page is me, a badass mermaid. I love meeting new people, swimming in the ocean, skiing on majestic mountains, exploring the beauty of this land and being a change agent.
In 1990, I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology where my natural curiosity was complemented with knowledge on how to assess and improve systems of systems with incredible accuracy. Unfortunately, manufacturing environments at that time were toxic places for women. Sexual violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault were common place. I left engineering and became an educator. I have integrated the engineering design process in my classes from middle school through graduate school.
From Boston ⇒ Rochester ⇒ Raleigh⇒ Greensburg ⇒ Germany ⇒ China ⇒ Pittsburgh
As a young parent, I recognized many challenges. First, sleep deprivation with a smile = motherhood. For example, I noticed a variety of services available for people in Greensburg, Pennsylvania were not accessible to all or the linkage connecting them was broken. Why was quality of life associated with zip code? Why aren’t the folks working at these agencies respectful of their patrons? How were people to know where to go for assistance if there were no road signs to guide them? The existing collection of services available needed to be repackaged and properly communicated with a twist, to empower folks. This is why dreamspace was formed.
Survey data indicated a need for a safe place for folks feeling vulnerable to begin the healing process leading to empowerment. dreamspace was designed to increase accessibility, people throughout the community could physically come or participate remotely using technology. dreamspace is a place where dreams come to fruition. A place for artists, engineers, poets, Veterans, mechanics, doctors, hair stylists, lawyers, students and all others to share their gifts and talents to address issues in the community as a collaborative. Additionally, dreamspace was designed to be multigenerational, inclusive and representative of all races, classes, gender identify and ability. Too many people I met were operating in survival mode and I believe together we are able to address these issues so more have the opportunity to thrive. My dream was to create a place for people to collaborate and thrive, individually and foster a healthy community. And then, our family moved abroad.
Fast forward, I lived in Germany, completed my doctoral research in China and returned to Pennsylvania. As Director of Educational Research and Workforce Development for Allegheny Singer Research Institute, I implemented the Allegheny Women’s Biotechnology Workforce Collaborative. This pilot test was then funded by the National Science Foundation. AWBWC was modified and became, “Linking Communities with STEM” which was funded by the Catherine T and John D Macarthur Foundation, the National Writing Project & John Legend’s “Show Me Campaign.”
Check out the videos of students across Pittsburgh participating in a Poverty Simulation (if prompted for password, enter “1”) to gain empathy and never stop iterating their projects to address food instability in Pittsburg. Linking Communities with STEM also includes “dreamspace for teachers” whereby educators from across Pittsburgh collaborated and created units and lessons which were missing from their schools.
Today, dreamspace is proud to launch, “Yes, and“ and “Resource for Recourse.” We have created “Sex Ed 2.0” to address the lack of state mandate and curricula gaps across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For survivors of sexual violence, we offer financial support to retain legal assistance. We are dedicated to “radical community healing” as Tarana Burke, founder of #metoo poignantly described while in Pittsburgh. Feel free to contact me and share the LOVE!
-Michelle Zuckerman-Parker, Ed.D.