2017-19 CEW Twink Frey Visiting Social Activists, Amber Arellano & Dessa Cosma

Amber Arellano is the founding executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. Founded in 2010, today Ed Trust-Midwest is widely recognized as a leading voice for non-partisan data, research and policy expertise. Under her leadership, Ed Trust-Midwest led the cross-sector development of Michigan’s first statewide educator support and evaluation system. In partnership with the Steelcase Foundation, Arellano also founded the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to bring proven best practices from leading education states to Michigan’s high-poverty schools. At the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she helped develop cross-country public engagement campaigns. A veteran journalist, Arellano earned national awards including the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Commentator of the Year award for her influential work on behalf of Michigan’s vulnerable students. Arellano earned her Master of Public Policy at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and her Bachelor’s in secondary education from Michigan State University. A former public high school teacher, she is a first-generation college graduate. She serves on the board of the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation and the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy Alumni Board.

Dessa Cosma grew up in the Deep South, splitting her time between New Orleans, LA and Augusta, GA. She’s been a social justice advocate for as long as she can remember, starting her environmental, LGBT, and reproductive justice efforts in high school. She attended the University of Georgia, and earned bachelors degrees in International Affairs, Women’s Studies, and Anthropology. After graduation, Dessa moved to Detroit to work as the Senior Field Organizer for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan. Not only does she love organizing, but she loves Detroit! Dessa helped organize the US Social Forum, which brought nearly 20,000 people to Detroit in 2010 and also helped organize the 2012 Michigan Women’s Power Assembly, which drew 175 activists together for training and strategizing. In 2014, Dessa graduated with a Masters in Social Justice from Marygrove College. At that time, she was the Michigan Program Director for the Center for Progressive Leadership training hundreds of activists, candidates, and campaign managers across the state. She then became the Executive Director of the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan, which she helped to start in collaboration with some of Detroit’s best economic justice champions. Dessa has tremendous disability pride and is eager to continue bridging the gap between the disability community and larger social justice movements.