"I had never seen poverty to that extent before, literally in front of me."
Elena Bauer Kozielski was born in Champaign, Illinois, on February 21, 1995. As a child, she spent a considerable amount of time between Germany and the United States. She attended University Laboratory High School, in Urbana, as part of the Class of 2012. Going on her first Habitat trip to Clarksdale, Mississippi during her junior year, Elena was very interested in seeing the different dynamics within the community. After graduating from, Elena spent a semester in Germany and then a semester in the Delta and volunteered at Sherard Elementary School. She also worked as a volunteer for Griot Arts. In the fall of 2013, she began college at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Continuing her work for Griot, she and her husband, William Kozielski, created the Meraki program, a job training program that helps young high school graduates provide for themselves and their families. Elena now serves as the Assistant Director of Meraki while completing her education at the University of Mississippi.