Meaning Makers Collective

We call ourselves Meaning Makers Collective to evoke the perspective of critical and constructivist educators who have come before us, that the world is not given, it is made, and we need all of us.

Our Core Values


Wellness is a process and practice, not a product. We believe that wellness looks and feels different for different bodies, within different identities, and throughout different environments. A collective commitment to wellness asks us to be curious about what our bodies need and willing to create, ask for and receive the resources necessary to sustain and enrich our lives. We guide and invite people to engage in wellness practices that serve the needs of their bodies and communities.


As mammals, humans are essentially “wired” to be in connection with each other. Our capacity to attune to one another’s experience is fundamental to our capacity to love and care for one another. And it is from our experiences of connection with others that our capacity to connect with ourselves is formed. While personal and historical traumas cause many of us to contract into a sense of isolation, we believe connection is the condition for sustainable well-being. We seek to create experiences of authentic connection to remind our bodies and minds that we belong to and with one another, and are ultimately never alone.


Dignity –  a deep-rooted sense of worthiness and value – is within each of us and shared by all of us. It is the steady and peaceful presence that knows we are inherently deserving of respect. When people suffer and cause harm, they have not lost their dignity but rather have lost a connection to dignity. We believe that people in connection with dignity are courageous, loving, and wise. In everything we do, we seek to reveal, center, and celebrate the unconditional worth and value of all beings.

Radical Empathy

Empathy is an active engagement with the needs of others. Radical empathy is about centering the lives of those whose needs have been violated and silenced. It involves putting aside personal judgements, preferences, and perspectives, to acknowledge and honor the truth of another’s experience and move towards collective liberation. We practice radical empathy through how we listen and how we speak, aligning our language with a core belief in nonviolence.


We define ritual as any intentional experience of marking transition, celebration, loss, or any significant moment. Rituals – which can be as simple as pausing to breathe mindfully – have the power to slow down reactive and unconscious patterns and open space for clarity, mindfulness, and meaning-making. Through rituals, we invite people to connect to a sense of meaning, access resilience, and move forward together.

We believe that creating a world where many worlds fit is a visionary act. It requires that we look beyond what is to what can be – that we allow ourselves to imagine possibilities beyond what we currently know. Adopting a visionary stance creates opportunities for people to know themselves beyond labels and identities that may be constricting and obsolete. Engaging in collective visioning motivates communities to move through current challenges toward a more fulfilling future that considers everyone.

The Team

Michelle Kurta

Michelle was raised in Southern California in an upper middle class Jewish family with roots in Eastern Europe. A lineage shaped by the complex experiences of trauma, power, and privilege informs Michelle’s life’s work at the dynamic intersections between teaching/learning, healing, and justice.
For over 15 years, Michelle has engaged in educational equity and justice work as a student, organizer, and teacher. In her work with Meaning Makers Collective, Michelle hopes to share insights and tools for disrupting the explicit and unconscious patterns of systemic injustice and attending to the wisdom of our own bodies in service of personal and collective healing.

Judee Fernandez

Judee is a first generation Latina (via parents from the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico- the birthplace of paletas & queso cotija). Prior to co-founding Meaning Makers Collective, Judee worked for over 17 years as a high school teacher and principal dedicated to working with first generation youth of color whom were critically impacted by systemic oppression and with lived experience in the foster care system, incarceration and human trafficking.
Judee has committed her life to creating an equitable world where people in under-resourced communities have opportunities to thrive. She is a native Spanish speaker, a passionate story-teller, a human rights advocate, and a lover of nature who resides in Los Angeles, California where she was born and raised.

Contact Us!

Thank you for reaching out, please let us know what you are curious about and how we may help.

While we offer an array of services for schools and organizations, we can also tailor our work to meet your specific needs.

Please send us an email to [email protected]

Thank you! We look forward to talking to you soon!

Judee & Michelle