Samantha Caras & Maria Gribensk

Samantha Caras

College Counselor & Inclusion Lead at Academia Cotopaxi since 2015, Samantha has worked as an educator in India, Kenya, and Ecuador. Her background is in Cultural Anthropology, Gender Studies, and International Counseling Psychology and she is passionate about college access and fostering inclusive communities. As the counseling department Inclusion Lead she guides inclusion efforts with a team of dedicated staff members.

Maria Gribensk

High School English Teacher & Inclusion Team Member at Academia Cotopaxi

Maria is a high school English teacher and part of the Inclusion Team at Academia Cotopaxi. She’s been in education for 15 years, mostly at the secondary level as an English teacher as well as in Learning Support. She is passionate about education and inclusion and how those two entities intersect.

Title: Inclusion Is a Team Effort - and Everybody's Responsibility!


This presentation will focus on the work of the Inclusion Team, comprised of PK-12 educators at Academia Cotopaxi, which is anchored around our annual “Inclusion Week”. During this week, staff, parents, community members and students actively engage in topics such as intersectionality, disability, mental health, gender, and more.

We will walk participants through the roles and responsibilities of our inclusion team members, as well as the planning and implementation phases of our Inclusion Week. We will showcase how our Inclusion Week structure helps mitigate potential pushback from community members and gives students agency over their learning. Participants will examine the work and structure of Academia Cotopaxi’s inclusion efforts, receive planning resources, and engage in troubleshooting discussions.