Brenda Luz Cotto-Escalera is a Latinx educator and activist who has worked for educational equity and access throughout a professional career that includes roles in community arts, higher education, public schools, and the nonprofit sector.
While growing up in a tight-knit barrio in Puerto Rico, she developed a passion for social justice and community empowerment. She channeled this passion into the practice of street theater and traveled throughout Latin America working with communities that used drama as a means to imagine a better world and organize to attain it. She later focused her academic studies on the areas of Latin American Theater and Popular Education and completed a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduate school, she moved to the Boston area where she taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Lesley University and directed theater productions at various New England venues.
Searching for work that offered direct engagement with social justice and community empowerment, she worked in the education departments of nonprofit organizations focused on LGBT rights, economic equity, and environmental justice. After realizing that the education of our youth was at the core of all positive social change, she moved to the Austin area where she has been working as a bilingual teacher and education leader for the last 12 years. Throughout this time, she honed her skills in the areas of literacy instruction, second language acquisition, and special needs intervention.
Brenda feels that her role as Education Program Manager at Friends of the Children Austin is the culmination of a career dedicated to attaining justice through community empowerment and is thrilled to focus her training and experience on the task of making a better world one child at a time!