Ismalis Nuñez is a second-generation Afro Puerto Rican and Cuban American equity champion with extensive experience designing and leading systemic change initiatives in both educational and nonprofit settings. Ismalis served as a school social worker in various settings, which gave her a front line view of how educational systems marginalize children and families of color leading to further economic and social disparities outside of the educational setting. Her passion and commitment grew serving as the first Family & Community Engagement Coordinator for Evanston/Skokie District 65 where she focused on the inclusion of families, particularly families of color, in district dialog and decision-making. Her efforts led to the development of Black and Latinx parent advisory groups with an emphasis on addressing policies and procedures with a racial equity lens.
Ismalis holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago. She has served on various committees, including the Safe & Supportive School Climate, Instructional Leadership Team, and the District's Crisis Team. She served as the co-chair for Evanston’s Cradle to Career Family Engagement subcommittee, elevating the voices of Black, Brown, and Latinx families who have traditionally been marginalized. Ismalis has presented at conferences including the 2017 YWCA Racial Justice Summit and the 2017 Community Schools National Forum on issues related to equity. She has experience in recruiting and facilitating Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity (SEED) seminars both within the school and community settings. She is a Leadership Evanston class of XXIV alumni and was nominated for the 2017 Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy (CAAIP) Social Justice Champion Award.
Her role expanded, becoming the first Director of Equity & Family Engagement in District 65. As a natural collaborator, she led system-wide efforts to build awareness and capacity to embed racial equity into every aspect of district work. Ismalis’ efforts led to training for all staff in Beyond Diversity, designing and leading year-long Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity (SEED) seminars for 150 staff and parents, launching and supporting racial affinity groups for staff, and leading a district-wide equity leadership team (DELT) to review and advise on policy and best practices.
After her time in District 65, Ismalis moved to a national platform where she facilitated, designed, and delivered adult and student learning experiences focused on racial equity around the country. She is also a co-creator of Evanston Aid where she manages a mutual aid effort, organizes programs that connect community resources with need, leads advocacy initiatives, and coaches rising grassroots movement-leaders on building capacity and accountability. All of this work rests on the centering of voices that are marginalized by society, the empowerment of stakeholders, and the prioritizing of relationships and connectedness (both with the self and others).