Meet Elena

Annie KennedyInside WITS

Elena Medeiros is one of three new program coordinators at WITS who joined the staff in November 2021. Read on to learn more about Elena, why the Kiki Strike series should be made into a TV show, and why the Minnesota State Fair is the place to be.

Tell us about yourself.

Hi, my name is Elena Medeiros. I graduated from DePaul University in the spring of 2021. I grew up in a Brazilian-American household in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where I spoke both English and Portuguese with my parents. Because English was my second language, I struggled with reading and writing at an early age. Thanks to the support of my public school’s English Language Learning services, I was able to get the help I needed and develop a passion for reading. I would love for all students to get connected with the same resources and opportunities that brought me to where I am today.

What are you most looking forward to about working at WITS?

I am most excited about being able to work with students. Getting to visit classrooms and joining in on reading groups has been the highlight of my time with WITS so far. I am looking forward to getting to know the students more, learning about their interests, and discovering new books. The energy in the classrooms has been welcoming and exciting after so much time apart that I can’t wait to start reading together in-person again.

What was the best book you had to read in school?

In 11th grade, my English class read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez as a part of a global literacy unit. I was completely absorbed by the storytelling and depth of characters, and I love the way that García Márquez captures Latin American culture. What was truly special to me about reading this book with my class was being able to highlight and discuss some of the true magic, beauty, and complexities of the place that I am from.

What book series would you like to see turned into a TV show?

The Kiki Strike series by Kirsten Miller is about group of girls in Manhattan who get roped into insane adventures by Kiki Strike, a mysterious person with long white hair who oversees keeping order in the underworld of New York City. It reminds me of Ocean’s Eight with Sandra Bullock and Rihanna, except all the characters are 12-year-old girls. Back in 2006, the author promised that there would be more to the series, but, to this day, I am still waiting.

What could you give a 30-minute presentation on without preparation?

I could talk about the Minnesota State Fair for hours (and I have). I love my hometown; it’s an incredible place to be and it’s filled with amazing people. Every summer, everyone gets together for two weeks in the Twin Cities for the State Fair, where we celebrate with every kind of fried food that you can imagine. Millions of people go every year, and it’s the second largest state fair in the country (after Texas), so there is a lot to talk about.

Tell us about your favorite teacher.

My first-grade teacher was Ms. Cochran, and I have been lucky enough to keep in touch with her throughout the years. She even came to my high school graduation party. She was an incredibly special person who had so much kindness and compassion for students and always showed us how much she cared for us. I was very shy as a child, and she created a truly positive and inclusive environment for my classmates and me to open up in.

What song always puts you in a good mood?

Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy Remix” ft. ODB is my favorite song in the world. Anytime it comes on, I have to get up and sing along. Mariah Carey said that she had an incredible time working with ODB in the studio when they put it together, and I think that really comes through in the song. In my opinion, it is the best remix and, potentially, the greatest song that has ever been made.

WITS is committed to being an antiracist organization. How does diversity, equity, and inclusion come through in your work?

Throughout high school and college, I nannied children with a range of needs and abilities both at home and at school. The connections I built with them as I worked with them one-on-one led me to realize that I wanted to pursue a career working with students. Working with students individually emphasized for me what it means for everyone to come to the table with different strengths and challenges. At the end of the day, it is our responsibility as a community to work together to bridge the gap of what we are all able to do and what we need. I keep this in mind in my work as a lesson about equity. Everyone will come to table with what they are able to do, and we must, as an organization and as individuals, make sure that everyone is coming away with what they need.