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.

Parallel Process

All training experiences and workshops will involve both learning experiences that develop content knowledge and activities that develop the trauma-informed and healing-centered facilitation skills of participants.

Fostering Leadership

Trainings and workshops are opportunities for participants to understand and identify the potential impact of their work and be empowered to make healing-centered choices within their roles

Employee Well-being

Trainings and workshops will emphasize the critical role of self-awareness, regulation, and collective care in the culture of organizations.

Modeling Courageous Conversations

As a cross-racial team of facilitators from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, we use trainings to model how we foster relational trust while naming and disrupting the ways systemic and structural oppression surface in our interactions. We invite participants to engage in inquiry and examination of their own privilege and biases.

Our Philosophy Into Action

The Team

Judee Fernandez

Judee Fernandez is an educator, facilitator and coach who recently worked as a resilience and trauma informed practices coach for a national initiative focusing on school employee well-being.
Judee began her work in schools as a high school Spanish teacher who later co-founded First Generation Institute, a firm focused on providing professional development for teachers in the area of cultural relevance and equity for students of color in public schools. 
Judee holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish and Education from Loyola Marymount University, a Masters Degree in Latin American Studies from Cal State Los Angeles and a School Leadership Certificate from the University of Southern California.
Judee is dedicated to creating an equitable world where people in under resourced communities have an opportunity to heal and thrive.  She is an inspirational storyteller, a human rights advocate, and a lover of nature who resides in Los Angeles, California.  

Michelle Kurta

For over 15 years, Michelle has engaged in educational activism as a student, organizer, and teacher. Prior to becoming a trauma-informed practices coach for educators and school staff, Michelle taught English Language Development, Language Arts, and Psychology at the School for Visual Arts and Humanities in the LAUSD.
Michelle earned a Masters degree in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and an M.Ed in Urban Education and Single-subject Teaching Credential from UCLA’s Teacher Education Program.
Michelle most recently worked as a resilience and trauma-informed practices coach for a national initiative to support school employee wellness in California and Colorado.
In her work as an educator and coach, 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.

Contact Meaning Makers Collective

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.