Rising Star: Gisella Aitken-Shadle

Gisella Aitken-Shadle

director of adult education and literacy development at Northeast Iowa Community College

In her career as the director of adult education and literacy development (AEL), Gisella Aitken-Shadle has successfully grown Northeast Iowa Community College’s program.

“There has been a dramatic increase in the number of students graduating with their high school equivalency diplomas over the past several years,” said Dr. Liang Chee Wee, NICC president. Wee nominated Aitken-Shadle for Rising Stars.

“I’m motivated to help students succeed and achieve their goals. We are helping some of our students with a second chance to go back to school, receive a diploma, get a better job and take more control of their life,” Aitken-Shadle said.

She started at NICC in 2009, moved to Washington, D.C., in 2014 and returned to NICC in 2015.

Originally from Lima, Peru, and raised in South Florida, Aitken-Shadle has a master’s in public administration, a bachelor of arts in international studies with a focus in human rights and a minor in political science from the University of Dayton, Ohio. She is pursuing her doctorate from the same institution.

She and husband Matthew Shadle, whom she met at the university, have been married for 13 years.

Clara Lopez Ortiz also nominated Aitken-Shadle for Rising Stars.

“Gisella has proven herself to be a model for the Latina community. She initiated a nonprofit — Latino Empowerment and Development (LEAD) to help and support the Latino community.”

“I started LEAD at the end of March 2020 when the pandemic began. I wanted to do something when so many people were struggling,” Aitken-Shadle said.

LEAD serves the Latino community in the northeast region of Iowa. It’s the only Latinx-led organization in the region and is focused on providing educational resources to the community — primarily in Spanish, and organizing volunteer opportunities to develop new leaders in the Latinx community.

LEAD worked with the City of Dubuque to organize a Spanish-language question-and-answer panel of doctors and community leaders to provide updated information about COVID-19 and vaccines.

“I wanted the community to be well-informed about not only what getting a COVID vaccine meant but also how important it is for their health and that of their loved ones,” Aitken-Shadle said.

Aitken-Shadle serves as the vice president of the Iowa Literacy Council, is on the board of the Latina Leadership Initiative and the Iowa Latino Alliance and the Northeast Iowa Local Workforce Development. She’s also an active member of the Pacific Islander Health Project Advisory Council, Crossing Borders (an immigration advocacy group in Dubuque) and the Greater Dubuque Community Foundation’s Immigration Steering Committee.