As LIFT-Los Angeles’ founding Executive Director, Michelle is responsible for developing the overall strategic direction necessary to increase and sustain LIFT’s growth in Los Angeles. She leads the cultivation of key partnerships, builds infrastructure, provides programmatic oversight and stewards donor relationships in concert with LIFT-Los Angeles’ Program Team, Development Team and the Regional Advisory Board of Directors.
Michelle LIFTs because she believes that small, loving actions can make a big difference in someone’s life. Her own parents loved her so fiercely and at a young age, instilled in her the notion that she could do anything she wanted. She fully understands that this firm belief and investment in her possibility provided a buffer against socioeconomic inequity. It is an honor for her to pass on this transformative power of love, backed by rigor and dedication, to a population overburdened by stigma, isolation and disregard. She highly values that LIFT’s approach upholds that a caring and dignified response is a revolution that can change lives and communities.
With over 20 years working in youth and community development, Michelle Rhone-Collins has stood up for equity and access for disenfranchised individuals and communities. Michelle began her career working with homeless and runaway teens as part of the University Settlement House in NYC’s Lower East Side. Since then, she designed progressive youth leadership development, college preparation and arts in education programs; directed a residential camp program for children from lower income urban communities; created a Hip Hop theater youth production that showed at the Central Park Bandshell and Nuyorican Poets Cafe; developed service learning programs for immigrant youth; and organized a social justice and community service trip to the Punjab region of India. As the Executive Director of a community center in Beacon, NY, Michelle led the charge to keep land from being developed so that it could continue to be used for community purposes and worked to create a new model for gentrification. Just prior to LIFT-Los Angeles, Michelle was the Executive Director of The Children’s Nature Institute in Los Angeles, CA. Under her leadership, The Children’s Nature Institute became a model for environmental advocacy, and justice and holistic community development. Michelle received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Duke University and Masters of Education in Psychological Counseling from Teacher’s College/Columbia University with a focus on racism, racial identity and mental health. She is also a Senior Fellow for USC’s Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab.
Michelle is also the proud mother of two beautiful children– her ultimate source of motivation and inspiration.