MEET MICHELLE L. BONTON, M.ED,
INNOVATOR, TRAILBLAZER, CHANGE AGENT
Michelle Bonton is a native Houstonian, veteran educator, entrepreneur, and a self-described “broke philanthropist,” who believes in giving of her time, talent, and resources to impact the community for good. As a public servant in education for 30 years, 15 of which were in senior leadership, Michelle impacted the lives of thousands of children and their families. Building on her training and leadership she founded Kaleidoscope Youth Development Services, (KYDS) Inc., in 2006 and led the organization for 13 years. At the time of her retirement in 2019, KYDS, Inc., had a 14 million dollar budget and employed nearly 200 people most of whom were people of color.
Michelle has always been a change agent who advocates for others, (she petitioned her middle school principal to request a school bus stop closer to the apartment complex her family lived in, saving herself and her classmates a 2 mile walk each day!). As a teen mom, Michelle fought to overcome the associated challenges, but found it extremely difficult to navigate a system that was structured to foster cyclical failure rather than success. Those experiences taught Michelle the reality of the truism that says, “If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the table,” and gave birth to her desire to have a voice in the making of laws and policies that impacted her life and the lives of others like her.
As a community leader, Michelle consistently advocates at the city and state level ensuring that the voice of the people is heard and that action is taken on their behalf. Her training and knowledge of education led to her service as an education policy specialist during the 83rd legislative session. Additionally, Michelle has been called upon to testify at the state level on education issues several times over the course of her career, and acted as a policy analyst for Fox 26 Houston’s Front Page Talk segment in 2013. Her policy work has also included time as a freelance writer for the Tribune newspaper, serving as a member of the Greater Houston Black Chamber Legislative Committee, the Lake Houston Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Committee, and as a policy analyst for the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.
Michelle currently serves as founder and Executive Director of Harris County Cultural Arts Council (HCCAC), the sole source for cultural engagement and the arts in unincorporated East Harris County. Michelle believes that the arts are essential to the healthy development of the mind, the body, and the soul and that one cannot fully benefit from the human experience without them. She started HCCAC to ensure that everyone— young and old, rich or poor, black, white, or brown—can experience the arts within their home community.
Additionally, Michelle recognizes that the intersection of art and activism presents opportunities for creative expression, community dialogue, and shared cultural experiences, and through her leadership at HCCAC seeks to use the arts as a tool for social justice.
Michelle holds a Mid-management certification from Stephen F. Austin University, a Master’s degree in Counseling from Prairie View A&M University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing from the University of Houston Downtown.
When she is not in the trenches fighting for change, Michelle enjoys spending time with her family. She has been married to her husband Ellis for 36 years. They have three children and nine grandchildren. Michelle is a committed Christian whose ministry passion is teaching and encouraging others toward spiritual growth.