Thirty-eight year old Aida Toledo is the youngest of eight children and was born in Chicago to Puerto Rican parents. Her mother finished fourth grade and her dad graduated from middle school. Her family moved to West Michigan while she was young and Toledo grew up in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. She worked full-time, supporting herself through her first degree from Grand Valley in criminal justice in 2003.
An advocate for structure and discipline, Toledo started out working with teens entering juvenile detention in Kent County. She also spent time guiding youth between the ages of 11 and 17 at the former “Project Rehab” of Grand Rapids. There she coordinated long and short term substance abuse programs for six years, in an effort to keep teens out of jail.
Toledo came to the realization that she wanted to affect change in adolescents before they became troubled and entered the justice system. She continued her education at Grand Valley and received master’s degrees in social work (2007) and education (2009), followed by an educational specialist degree in leadership (2010). She has been working in administration for the Grand Rapids Public Schools since 2007, and currently holds the position of Dean of Students at Riverside Middle School, which serves 306 students. Her primary roles are coordinating discipline for students and taking part in teacher evaluations.
When she reflected on the time and effort it took to get four diplomas in less than a decade, she said:
“They have all had their place in assisting me to be where I am today. I am now able to pursue a doctorate if I want and may be seeking yet another degree, this time in counseling.”
“They have all had their place in assisting me to being where I am today. I can pursue a doctorate if I want to and now I have a passion for counseling. Education is key. You never stop learning.”
The first and only in her family of ten to receive education from a four-year university, Toledo emphasizes the importance of education to her students on a daily basis, hoping to steer them away from trouble and toward a promising future.