Lisette Bamenga is the Curriculum Director for the Racial Justice and Abolition Democracy project. Prior to joining Columbia, Lisette was a teacher for close to a decade in NYC public schools where she enjoyed having a positive impact on every student she encountered. She taught Kindergarten and 2nd Grade general and special education as well as French for 3rd graders in a dual language program. After an involvement with the legal system, Lisette found a new sense of purpose in being a voice for people who are still in carceral spaces. For this reason, Lisette became an Academic Coordinator at Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, a non-profit organization which provides college programming and re-entry services to women and men who are incarcerated in New York State. In that role, she managed the college program in a women's correctional facility and assisted the students to continue their education after their return to the community. Lisette also participated in and then led a women’s cohort with Ritual4Return, an organization that uses theater and restorative justice practices to heal the trauma and stigma of incarceration.
Lisette was a co-presenter at the National Higher Education in Prison conference where she shared the transformative power of collaborative partnerships, and she also presented at the Marymount Manhattan College Sustaining Connections Conference to discuss the way connections were maintained with students with the use of video conferencing equipment after COVID-19 forced all programs inside the correctional facilities to cease in-person delivery.
Advocating for social justice is also important to Lisette. She has appeared on panels with state Senators and Assembly Members to push for the re-enfranchisement of returning citizens (S830B/ A4448), the restoration of TAP awards for students who are incarcerated (S4464/ A2322), and the passage of the Clean Slate Act to end the perpetual punishment of conviction records (S1553/ A6399). Additionally, Lisette wrote an article published by the Marshall Project on the importance of using humanizing language when discussing people with legal system involvement. Lisette was the 2021 recipient of the Victor Hassine Memorial Scholarship from the John Jay College Institute for Justice and Opportunity, awarded for her commitment to advocating and raising awareness of the challenges that justice-impacted individuals face.
Lisette received a BA in Psychology and Spanish from Drew University, an MS in Early Childhood Education, Childhood Education, and Students with Disabilities from Mercy College, and is currently pursuing an Ed D in Learning and Teaching with a concentration in Educational Leadership from Hofstra University. She lives by this quote from Nelson Mandela: "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."