Karissa was born and raised in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. She is wolf clan from the Mohawk nation and has experience in Indigenous education at both the secondary and post-secondary level.
Karissa is a licensed secondary teacher in Ontario, having completed the Indigenous Teacher Education Program at Queen's University. Prior to completing her BEd, Karissa completed her bachelor's degree in Indigenous studies at the University of Ottawa. She also has qualifications in Guidance and Career Education.
Karissa has worked in Indigenous post-secondary student support and as a college instructor for an Indigenous education institute. She also taught for a full school year at an on-reserve secondary school. The courses she taught include: Indigenous studies, Mohawk language, Ontario secondary school literacy course, and Canadian history. Karissa has also completed a certificate program in Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education from the University of British Columbia.