The Daniels Family: Paying it Forward


Since moving back from New York City to her hometown, Michelle Daniels and her husband Eric has continued to contribute in numerous ways to people, organizations and institutions who are committed to making Rochester a better place than the way they found it.

Michelle, the youngest of three was born in Spanish Harlem to Puerto Rican parents, before moving to Rochester when she was six-month-old.

After high school, she enrolled into Monroe Community College, Mass Communication program, concentrating in broadcast communication and advertising. During that span, she interned for two-years with Shonda Clark, who was then the public affairs director at Channel 13. After graduation, she enrolled at Brockport College and continued in communication.

Shortly after having their first son, the next leap for the power couple was to move to NYC, where Eric would work on Wall Street for five to ten years and Michelle’s portion was to work as a publicist and together, hopefully put themselves in a position to come back to Rochester and give back to the community that gave to them.

But all of that changed after 911.

“Eric was there when the buildings came down. It was a scary moment because I lost contact with him and it was then we decided to move back to Rochester,” she acknowledges. “We were cut short, what we hope for it to be, but I think we fared okay. We still manage to give back to the community as things happen.” Back home, the couple and their two kids settled on Rochester’s west side in 2003.

“Because of our boys, we decided I was going to be a homemaker,” Michelle said. “It was a family decision but after our son started school, I was bored, and I began to think to myself, I can’t just stay home. I have a bachelor’s degree, so I decided to volunteer at my son’s school number 12. My husband decided it was more important that the boys were situated in regard to studies, so volunteering seemed perfect.”

Michelle then reveals, she thinks-- herself in a clever manner was tricked into accepting a job at School 12.

“I was pretty much volunteering every day, so I was obviously available and there was a need and they- (officials at School 12) concluded that I was a good fit for the job opening coming up,” she recalled. “I was assisting the director of the school’s parent liaison and I didn’t realize she was retiring. And the next thing I knew, I’m told I got the job.”

“While working there I realize the attendance wasn’t high enough, so I developed a database and communicated with the parents and in return the attendance rate rose significantly,” she continued. “Then I notice another need identified by our parents to create an after-school program. And just as important, in front of the school is where I found a marker of Frederick Douglass. I remember hearing about Frederick Douglass but all I really knew was that he wrote a newspaper, so I decided to read up on him and began reading his autobiography, The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. And I was excited about this man that lived on the property of School 12. There were pictures and markers of him, but nobody was really talking about him. And I was amazed, not in a good way to see that this was happening. So, I approach the principal and inquired about starting a club at the school. I got the okay. But I had to fund the program out of my pocket. After talking it over, my husband and I decided to start an after-school program in his Douglass’s honor. And we did that from 2007 to 2013.”

During that span Michelle hosted relevant programs and participated in numerous events and activities where the kids are able to learn about Douglass. They were also afforded opportunities to travel to several places outside of Rochester that commemorates his legacy.

Her continuous involvement with the school district aspired to a donation of 2,500 books to the Rochester City School District.

“The book touched me so much and made me want to do more,” she says. “It was not only about African Americans and what we are capable of doing, but also the city of Rochester.”

Recently, the Daniels hosted an event, The Frederick Douglass Initiative at their home. It was The Douglass Foundation’s first event since moving their headquarters to Rochester.

“And the reason they held it at my home was because we have a Frederick Douglass statue in the backyard,” Michelle acknowledged. “We purchase that statue as well as two other statues around the city because we want to make sure that Frederick Douglass’s legacy is still alive, and people keep talking about him.”
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