Confronting White Nationalism, in El Paso and everywhere it manifests itself

Dear Enroot Community,

Heartbroken and Shocked. These are our natural responses to tragic violence like the attacks over the weekend in El Paso and Dayton.

As the leader of an organization dedicated to lifting up the positive truth about immigrants and supporting their success, any assault on their humanity is painful. As the husband of an amazing Mexican American woman and proud father of Mexican American children, the attack in El Paso hurts in a special way.

In addition to the incomprehensible feeling of loss among victims’ families, these events also inflict trauma on many millions of people and leave them feeling less welcome, less accepted, and far less safe.

Voicing these responses, of being heartbroken and shocked, assure us of our humanity and help bring us together. And yet we can no longer truthfully claim to be shocked. Neither event could be described as shocking since they fit right into a disturbing trend that must be confronted vigorously and immediately. While the motive of the Dayton shooter remains unclear for now, the El Paso shooter was motivated by a racist White Nationalist narrative that is growing around the world. Headlines about an ‘Anti-immigrant Massacre’ and a motivating manifesto referencing a ‘Hispanic invasion of Texas’ are all at once unthinkable and yet clearly connect to words and ideas that are amplified by thought leaders in our country.

The White Nationalist ideology and movement is a cancer. Unaddressed and untreated, it will continue to grow and cause pain and destruction to our society.

It is essential for those of us who recognize this threat to speak out openly, courageously, and often. It needs to become the topic of more frequent conversation among all of us so that we can better understand it. As we develop a deeper shared understanding of its genesis and its subscribers, we must take steps together as a country to relentlessly attack it at the roots and ensure it is ultimately dismantled.

I hope that as we seek healing in this moment we turn to both love and action. In my experience the healing process requires we find productive channels for the outrage we feel. Let it be your fuel for taking action. Convert some of it into messages of love for those around you who need reassurance. Convert some of it also into concrete actions to confront and dismantle the White Nationalist narrative wherever you see it manifested. Each of us must find our role to play.

Thank you for the many ways each of you already stand in solidarity with our immigrant community, reaffirming the truth about their humanity and enormous contribution to our country.

Yours in love and in action,

Ben Clark

Standing Tall in the Face of Hatred - Enroot's Letter to the Community

Dear Community,

Most of our students moved to this country within the last few years. They sacrificed what was familiar in the hope that they would find greater security, stability, and opportunity. They knew it wouldn’t be easy but expected that for the most part they would be welcomed and encouraged to become their best.

A few years ago it would have been impossible to believe that headlines like today’s could be written as fact, not fiction - that we would have so recklessly abandoned our most cherished shared values. So many of President Trump's tweets and initiatives have been racist and dehumanizing, from his attacks on immigrants and Muslims to attacks on women and all people of color. But few will leave as big a stain on our collective conscience as the treatment under this administration of asylum seekers and migrants at our southern border and at detention centers across the country. Recent images like that of tiny Valeria and her father Oscar, and of children crammed into cages, have left many of us heartbroken and asking ourselves, ‘Who ARE we if this is how we respond to desperate families in need?’

It’s natural for many of us to turn away and tune out periodically when feeling overwhelmed by the weight of so much hatred and negativity. Enroot students, alumni, and staff do not have this luxury and must continue to summon fresh courage, resilience, and hope as they face the direct impacts of these forces daily. Even as we express our outrage about the situation at the border, it’s important to recognize how traumatizing the rhetoric and enforcement crackdowns are; not only to our students but also to their families and other members of the immigrant community. Here are just a few real-life examples of the ways the current anti-immigrant environment impacts these beloved community members on a daily basis:

  • The constant fear that any chance encounter with police or other public officials could result in detainment and deportation.

  • Enduring physical and sexual abuse without reporting it to the authorities for fear of them or a loved one being deported.

  • Wondering if a slight delay in the arrival of a parent at the end of a work shift might mean they’ve been apprehended.

  • Parents insisting their children stay home from school and forego after-school enrichment opportunities.

  • Enduring open harassment while moving about the city, including fellow students and adults saying things like “Go back to Africa!”, “I don’t want to be seen next to the FOB’s [Fresh Off the Boat’s]”, “Are you even legal!?”, “Trump is going to deport you all!” 

Can you imagine how difficult it must be to try to heal from years of trauma experienced before arriving in this country while constantly being bombarded by fresh acts of racism and aggression? Countless studies have documented how this type of recurring trauma is particularly damaging to children and adolescents.

The inhumane conditions at detention facilities, the threatened crackdown, and the many other attempts to instill fear in immigrant families require that each of us stand up with renewed vigor and use our voices to protect not only the dignity of immigrant families but also our very identity as a country. It is not an exaggeration to say this has become a fight for the soul of our nation.

This fight will not be won by simply expressing our frustration and disgust to those around us who nod in agreement. 

This moment requires we each stand up, volunteer more time, donate more money, and speak out with more courage and more urgency. Each time they ratchet up their racist rhetoric and tactics we must again raise the volume of our message of love, inclusion, and humanity. 

Let's raise our collective voice to a decibel never before heard, in a reaffirmation of who we are - a country that is compassionate and understands that we are strengthened by immigrants every single day. 

Please join me and others in the Enroot community in our commitment to fight for the security and dignity of immigrant families each day, in all the ways that we can. Below are suggestions of actions we can each take, today, tomorrow and each day until hatred and fear are no longer in the driver’s seat.

  1. Color Lines: Here's What You Can Do Right Now to Support Detained Immigrant Children.

  2. New York Times: Children Shouldn’t Be Dying at the Border. Here’s How You Can Help.

Take a moment to look carefully at the photo I’ve included below. These are immigrant students. They are loving, they are driven, they are spunky, they are wise, they are unselfish, they are resilient, they are courageous. They are future coders, lawyers, inventors, engineers, carpenters, elected officials, pediatricians, accountants, social workers, they are the leaders of today and tomorrow. This is the true narrative of these young people.

Thank you for your steadfast support of immigrant communities and for your activism at this crucial moment in our country’s journey toward equity.

Ben Clark
Executive Director


Enroot receives $300K grant from Cummings Foundation

Enroot Cummings Foundation.jpg

Cambridge, MA - Enroot is one of the greater Boston area nonprofits sharing in the Cummings Foundation’s $25 million grant program in 2019. The Cambridge based organization that supports immigrant students has been awarded a $300,000 Sustaining Grant to be disbursed over the next ten years.

On receiving this award, Enroot’s Executive Director Ben Clark commented, “Enroot is thrilled to expand our partnership with the Cummings Foundation to advance equity for immigrant students. With the Cummings Foundation’s support over the next decade, we’ll be able to bring the Enroot experience to many hundreds of additional immigrant students in new communities around the greater Boston area.”

Enroot is specifically looking to expand to communities in Massachusetts with growing immigrant populations and a large proportion of English Learners. The support of the Cummings Foundation will allow Enroot to more confidently expand to communities that have traditionally received less philanthropic support and work to garner the support of other major funding partners.

Recognizing the value and rarity of long-term financial support for nonprofits, especially smaller organizations, programs such as the Sustaining Grants, provide ongoing funding for previous $100K for 100 winners, typically from $20,000 to $50,000 annually, for up to ten years. The Sustaining Grants program builds on Cummings Foundation's $100K for 100 programs. First offered in 2012, $100K for 100 annually awards multi-year grants of $100,000 each to 100 nonprofits that are based in and serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties.

During the award ceremony, Cummings Foundation volunteer selection committee representative Paul Lohnes shared this reflection:

“There are many signs saying “Immigrants welcome” around Cambridge, but Enroot lives that statement. Enroot helps teach its students to light a fire within, to leverage their own power, and to upgrade their own dreams. It has an inspirational staff, totally committed and aware of what their mission is. Quick and nimble, Enroot is always ready to meet shifting needs. It follows through in concrete ways, helping students become engaged and caring adults. I feel certain about its potential for success.”

About Cummings Foundation

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings. With assets exceeding $1.4 billion, it is one of the largest foundations in New England. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn. Its largest commitments to date include $50 million to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and $15 million to Partners In Health, in Boston. Additional information is available at

About Enroot

By providing wrap-around support that tackles the unique challenges facing English Learner students in high school and in their first two years of college, Enroot narrows the achievement gap between our students and their native-born peers. Enroot’s multi-year model enables us to leverage established and long-lasting student relationships to achieve the targeted support that immigrant students need to complete high school and graduate from college.

United Way features Enroot’s Georgia Lederman: In the Face of Challenge, Paving a Way to College and Career

Author: Brigid Boyd

The national college admissions bribery scandal has sparked a new level of attention on the competition and costs that together put college out of reach to many students. While the celebrity aspect of the story garners public attention, there is much work to do to level the playing field and invest in the potential of all young people.

And even though the process is incredibly complex and time-consuming, many families have the knowledge and resources to help their teenagers select the best school for them, navigate test prep courses, and apply for financial aid.


However, students from low-income families or households with limited English proficiency, or students who are first-generation in their families to go to college, are often on their own when it comes to the college admissions process. And with the ratio of students to school counselors averaging 410 to one in Massachusetts, it’s unrealistic to expect that the schools can do it alone.

“There simply are not enough school counselors to help those students coming from homes where neither parent has finished college, and perhaps even high school, and where the family’s financial situation may make college seem completely out of reach,” says Linda E. Saris, Executive Director at LEAP for Education in Salem. “Research tells us that underserved students need extra support and resources to make it successfully through post-secondary education.”

Georgia Lederman, Manager of College Success and Alumni Engagement at the Cambridge-based Enroot, adds that when English is not the first language at home, families have difficulties understanding and translating the nuanced and complex details of the college application process. As a result, these students receive less support writing critical scholarship and college essays.

For students experiencing homelessness or not living with their parents, the process of gathering all forms of tax documentation, ordering tax transcripts from the IRS, printing different school-specific verification forms for each college they have applied to and sending signed copies through the appropriate channels correctly — and on time — can be overwhelming. They are particularly so if the responsibility for those steps falls to the student. Kaitlyn Farmer, the Project Launch Coordinator at RAW Art Works in Lynn, says the cost of not completing all of these verification steps can be devastating, resulting in the loss of grants and aid needed for students to attend the college of their choice.

“As a college access organization, we are here to ensure no student slips through the cracks and suffers from what the industry has deemed ‘verification melt,’” Farmer said. “No low-income student should have to navigate the complexities of financial aid verification on their own. But without the help of supportive college access programs, that is the reality many will face.”


Support for vulnerable students can begin well before they decide on their post-graduation path. This year, United Way is investing $5.58 million in 82 agencies that provide college and career readiness programming, funds that will help these organizations reach 44,803 school-age youth.

Recognizing that certain students  — low-income, first-generation to go to college, or who are from communities of color — need extra support and resources to make it successfully through post-secondary education, community-based programs are filling a critical need.

Enroot, for instance, matches students one-to-one with mentors and tutors and hosts monthly workshops that address essays and college processes. Their tutors and mentors support students with SAT preparation, referring students to free SAT preparation courses. Enroot works proactively to ensure students are skilled in financial literacy and budgeting and supports students in choosing financially feasible colleges. They also help students complete the FAFSA application process by partnering with uAspire, a nonprofit dedicated to financial aid literacy.

LEAP for Education in Salem recognizes the high potential of the students who are typically locked out of the traditional college pipeline and provides an on-ramp to 350 students in Salem, Peabody, and Gloucester into college. LEAP provides students with academic enrichment, community engagement, college and career exploration and advising, and personal development opportunities.


Salem School Committee member Manny Cruz can personally attest to the support these programs provide young people. Manny started attending LEAP when he was in middle school. He came from a low-income, single parent household where English was not spoken, and was a disengaged student, earning well below-average grades. The staff provided academic support, enrichment, and help with his social and emotional well-being throughout his middle and high school years.

LEAP staff helped Manny explore his interest in politics and social justice more deeply. Through weekly meetings his senior year with his LEAP adviser, he completed all his admissions applications, received enough financial aid to cover his tuition and enrolled at Salem State University to pursue a degree in Political Science. Wanting more work-based learning experiences, LEAP staff once again worked with Manny to submit his transfer application to Northeastern University and introduced him to a scholarship which provided him with full tuition.

Through social connections made by LEAP staff, Manny participated and later became Chair of Governor Deval Patrick’s Youth Council and earned a prestigious fellowship in the courts. During his time at Northeastern, Manny completed three co-op experiences and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Political Science.

Now, he’s giving back to the community that supported him.  After graduation, Manny was hired as a legislative aide to a state representative and won election to Salem’s School Committee on his first try. Manny joined the LEAP Board in 2018.

“LEAP staff put me on a pathway to college and career success by providing me with high quality experiential learning, academic support and mentoring,” Cruz said. “With LEAP I began to believe in myself and was able create a blueprint for my future.”

In the last 5 years, of the students who have actively attended LEAP’s programs for two years or more, 90% have enrolled in college, 72% have earned a college degree, and 85% have earned post-secondary credentials or degrees.

“Thanks to funding from the United Way, LEAP works tirelessly to close the opportunity and achievement gaps for hundreds more underserved students who have the potential to fill the jobs of tomorrow,” said LEAP’s Executive Director Linda Saris.

Enroot responds to terrorist attacks on Mosques in New Zealand

Dear Enroot Community,

Today I cried on the way into work as I learned of the horrific terrorist attacks on Mosques in New Zealand. It just rattled me to my core. It was among the most extreme acts of racism and Islamophobic terrorism many of us have witnessed in our lifetime. It was an attack on Muslims, an attack on immigrants, an attack on people of color, an attack on difference, and a total assault on humanity.

As you know, we are proud that many of Enroot’s students are Muslims. Our students hail from 33 countries. All are students of color. All are immigrants. All have chosen to call this country their home and have sacrificed more than most of us can even imagine to make that possible. It’s heartbreaking that today many of them may feel less safe, less welcome, and less certain of those around them than they did yesterday.

It’s easy to condemn attacks like today’s and write them off as representative of only a narrow fringe element of society. But they are inspired by a White Nationalist narrative that is growing, rather than shrinking, in political prominence around the world. Perhaps more importantly, subtler versions of the same Islamophobia and related bigotry are constantly swirling all around us. When we are passive about their existence, they take root and grow. 

Events like today’s require that each of us take an honest look in the mirror and ask how we fit into this situation - what is our role in addressing it? We must challenge ourselves to find new ways to actively resist Islamophobia, White Nationalism, and anti-immigrant sentiment - What steps can I, Ben Clark, take to be a more effective ally and co-conspirator in dismantling racism and hatred in my daily life?

Most immediately, we can ask ourselves what we are doing to extend compassion and care to our Muslim family as they process this assault on their identity. 

Thank you for your dedication to Enroot students and for being active participants in creating a safer, more loving, more promising future for them in this country.

With love and healing thoughts,