The HRIPV has an innovative approach to elevating people’s consciousness about the causes and effects of racial divisiveness with the goal being the elimination of race-based bias and discrimination. The Healing Racism Institute strives to help identify internalized racism, interpersonal racism and reduce institutional, structural racism that causes discrimination that result in the Pioneer Valley being a segregated and divided community.
Director Waleska Lugo-DeJesús has over twenty years of experience working in the private, nonprofit sector, and in higher education. She also works as an independent consultant promoting inclusion, civic engagement, leadership and educating communities about 21st. century race relations and is the Director of the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley. She is widely respected and recognized for her amazing ability to broaden coalitions and advocacy for racial and social justice work that creates the means for others to be more human.
She fosters philanthropy in the community by engaging, enlightening, empowering and educating a cross-section of key stakeholders on the power of identifying inclusive strategies to create systems of equity. Waleska also spends significant time undertaking resource development, securing sponsorships, individual donor contributions, working with local and national foundations, and others which fuel her work and enhance the development of personal and institutional goals for addressing systemic racism.
She serves as Commissioner to the Massachusetts Art & Cultural Council representing Springfield as the Vice-President and volunteers as a liaison to Springfield Public Schools “Race Matters” Task Force. In 2008, Governor Patrick appointed her as a Commissioner for Commonwealth Corps, promoting civic engagement throughout the State. She serves as Co-Chair for the Western Mass United for Puerto Rico Coalition helping displaced families during the Humanitarian Crisis after Hurricane Maria. Waleska sits on the board of the Commonwealth Compact Higher Ed Diversity Collaborative, United Way of Pioneer Valley/Women’s Leadership Council, as an advisor to the Puerto Rican Parade Planning Team, and is a founding committee member for Leadership Pioneer Valley. Waleska is also a founding member of Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition, an emerging intergenerational advocacy group which centers on the livelihood and experiences of women of color, particularly Black and Latina women and girls. She also served as a board member for Partners for a Healthier Community, addressing health disparities within the African American and Latino communities with Baystate Health.
She has received numerous professional and civic awards including the 100 Women of Color Award in 2018, 2017 Ruth M. Batson Advocate of the Year Award which is the Providers’ Council’s in Boston pinnacle award for excellence in advocacy, 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award for Excellence in addressing Race Relations, 2016 Outstanding Champion of Diversity during National Philanthropy Day from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, 2016 “Women Trailblazers and Trendsetters” Award from the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce; uAspire First One awardee; 2012 Love Thy Neighbor Lifetime Achievement Award by New Creation Discipleship Ministries and Foundation; 40 Under Forty 2012 community award by Business West; Visionary Woman of Excellence Award by Unity First and named one of Biltmore’s Who’s Who in Higher Education promoting Multicultural Affairs; and in 2009 was honored at Springfield City Hall during the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month dedicated to “Latina Women in Leadership Roles”. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Business Management and Masters in Public Administration.