The Interview with Georgia Lederman

For our Grantee spotlight this month, Miriam interviewed Georgia Lederman, the Manager of College Success and Alumni Engagement of Enroot. Enroot empowers low-resource, immigrant high school students to achieve academic, personal, and career success through inspiring out-of-school experiences. With TPC’s support, Enroot will create programming to continue supporting Enroot students for two additional years after high school and ensure all of Enroot’s students have the resources to transition to postsecondary education, graduate from a two- or four-year college or technical training program, and grow in a meaningful career.


Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to work with Enroot.

I joined Enroot about three years ago as an Americorp volunteer. I have long been committed to dismantling inequities in the U.S. education system. As an Americorp volunteer I worked with Enroot seniors, developed curriculum, and helped them create and clarify their post-secondary goals. I was also tasked with organizing workshops, one-on-one meetings, and collaborating with high school guidance counselors. I loved the idea of being able to maintain the relationships established with the students. Understanding that English language learners are the lowest performing cohort of the college population, and wanting to be a part of their support, I chose to continue on with Enroot after my Americorp engagement ended to help inaugurate the college program in the fall 2018.


What are your goals and the goals of the organization?

My personal goal is to address the support needs of immigrant students to ensure their success. This video illustrates how Enroot’s mission to prepare these students so they can advocate for themselves and develop critical self-reliance meshes perfectly with my goal. We are helping these students to be successful in school and in their personal and professional lives.


What makes Enroot different from similar organizations?

The “wrap-around,” holistic nature of the program. The support Enroot provides is not exclusive to tutoring and mentoring. While case management is not highlighted, it is a critical component to the success of the program generally and the students specifically. Hands-on case management allows relationships to be forged amongst the various people involved in the student’s lives: their families, schools, local and state institutions, and whomever else is needed to make sure the students are well-resourced and supported. In addition, very few organizations focus exclusively on English language learners and immigrant populations, especially in relationship to success in education and professional success.


Can you tell us a story about how your work has impacted an individual or a family or a community?

Sure. An exceptionally shy student joined Enroot as a sophomore in high school from Bangladesh. By her senior year she had secured an internship at Novartis, which sparked her interest in the sciences. She then went on to study Biology at UMass Boston where she initially faced a variety of struggles that threatened to undermine her commitment to remain enrolled. Although she had started at UMass before the college program had started, she was able to join students beginning their college careers and received additional support along the way. She attributed her continued enrollment and improvement in her academic performance to her incorporation into the College Success Program. By reading the Enroot newsletter, she came across an internship opportunity at Dana Farber. She worked with her mentor to prepare her application and gained experience by participating in an Enroot career networking event. Happily, she had successful interviews and landed the internship!


What is most gratifying about your work? Is there an example that stands out for you?

It is particularly gratifying to have alumni engagement from as far back as the senior class from 1993. The willingness of alumni to participate as mentors and volunteers and the choice many make to pay it forward by offering internship opportunities and career exposure through job shadows stand out to me.
Tell us about how TPC’s grant is being used. What is the impact of our funding?

TPC funding is being used for the different elements of the college support and alumni engagement effort. Enroot was able to fill the role of a coordinator responsible for post-secondary success efforts and alumni engagement initiatives designed to support students through their transition to college or alternative programs, as well as to create an intentional alumni engagement strategy.

Using a coaching model, this post-secondary support includes: academic advising and support for Enroot students transitioning to college; finding a career path and relevant summer/school-year employment; financial aid support and financial literacy coaching; and providing motivational support throughout the post-high school years.

Enroot ensures that matriculated college students are connected to resources on their respective campuses, meet with a mentor, and receive career guidance and support from our staff. Current Impact Metrics tell us that 100% of the students that enrolled in the fall re-enrolled for the spring semester. Enroot has a 97% retention rate overall in the program. We believe this shows that coaching and mentoring are crucial to helping students overcome obstacles that could otherwise push them to drop out or disengage.

A recent alumni panel for current high school students illustrated traits of honesty, vulnerability, and confidence as the panel shared college experiences with the younger high school students. These students discussed how the support they received helped ease issues like homesickness, which is especially prevalent among first-generation college students. They also emphasized the importance of learning how to access tangible resources such as tutoring services on campus.


Are there other ways that TPC members could help Enroot’s students?

Professional connections that can lead to access to quality internships would be very helpful. We would also welcome the opportunity for students to participate in informational interviews spanning a variety of careers.