The new year is off to a great start at Enroot with our biggest class of students to date; we couldn’t be more proud of all the things they are achieving. I continue to be inspired constantly by the resilience and generosity they demonstrate day after day.
This year’s MLK Many Helping Hands Day of Service was an incredible chance to connect with so many of you. Walking into the room with my own little kids I was struck by what a dedicated community we are, that even on such a frigid day we show up, love freely, and give generously.
And yet, we are reminded on a daily basis what a difficult time it is to be a person of color and immigrant at this point in our country’s history. Both the FBI report last November and data compiled by the Center for Hate and Extremism confirm a significant and deeply troubling rise in hate crimes.
Now more than ever it’s essential for us to use our voices at every opportunity to stand up against racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and hatred in all of its forms. I encourage you to attend the Cambridge Digs DEEP events, a series of conversations facilitated by Dr. Darnisa Amante and hosted by the City of Cambridge that offer opportunities to learn and become both a resource and an advocate.
Thank you for being a part of Enroot’s work and for the work each of you are doing in your own circles to dismantle racism and discrimination. We need and appreciate every one of you.
College Visits, Mentoring, and more
Somerville: Students and mentors established strong and trusting relationships this fall and winter. Mentorship comes in many different shapes and forms: sometimes it's just investing a few minutes to play an UNO game, studying for an exam, taking selfies, learning about each other's cultures, ice skating for the first time, or celebrating a small success. Mentors, thank you for everything you do. Your impact on the students is extremely important and the positivity you bring to our young adults shows itself through the students' progress. Last week, Somerville students went on a field trip to Akamai to learn about careers in technology - read more about the trip on our blog!
Cambridge: Enroot Cambridge had 4 recent college visits! We went to Tufts University, Simmons College, UMass Boston and Benjamin Franklin Institute. At Simmons and UMass Boston, we met with Enroot alumni who shared their experiences with current students. It's exciting and motivating for students to be able to visit local campuses and picture themselves in college. Leadership students and their mentors kicked off the holiday season by building Gingerbread Houses together right before Winter Break. Pairs spent the first half of the evening polishing up students' resumes, and the second half constructing Gingerbread structures of all shapes and sizes. Enroot Cambridge students had a great visit to Fidelity Investment. Cambridge student, Adnan, wrote about the visit to Fidelity on our blog. Students heard from speakers who told their immigrant stories and how they made it to where they are today. In addition, students had the opportunity to to practice networking and interviewing skills and in the process meet Fidelity professionals from all backgrounds.
Across Sites: Our annual holiday party brought together students from both of our partner schools to play games, make new friends, and dance to music from around the world.
Spotlight on College Success
This fall we enrolled 28 students in Enroot's new College Success program. We're thrilled that and 100% of those students are still enrolled in college for the spring semester and 46% of our students made the Dean's Lists at their schools (requiring a 3.5 GPA or higher). College Success students attended our recent holiday gathering with mentors and received school supplies generously donated by The Philanthropy Connection members. This winter, our Manager of College Success will conduct 1-1 phone calls, creating personalized support plans with each student.
Enroot held a STEAM panel featuring careers in robotics, biotechnology, mechanical engineering, e-commerce, and IT infrastructure. Thank you to the Biogen Foundation for including our students in the STAR Initiative and making learning opportunities like this possible! A special thank you to our panelists from Ava Robotics, Akamai Technologies, Sensata Technologies, CarGurus, and Biogen.
Cycling for Enroot
Enroot raised over $1,000 at the Handlebar Indoor Cycling Studio in Harvard Square! Enroot volunteers, friends, and community members joined a 45-minute community ride with profits going to support Enroot's work. Thank you for coming out!
Enroot in the News
Check out these three articles featuring Enroot in the Cambridge Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor!
Despite the freezing weather, Enroot students came out to serve their community at Many Helping Hands’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on January 21st in Cambridge. Students volunteered alongside nearly 3000 members of the Cambridge community including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Ayanna Pressley, as they made scarves, blankets, and Valentines Day cards. Enroot student Harry is pictured above with Elizabeth Warren in an article by the Cambridge Chronicle.
What’s made rates of degree attainment for immigrant students spike? A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor looks to Enroot's work as part of the answer. "Across the country, the education levels of immigrants have been steadily rising over the past several decades, partly because of programs like Enroot that focus on providing long-term support. In 1980, about 16 percent of immigrants had earned a bachelor’s degree. By 2016, the number grew to 30 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. This increase has all but closed the gap between immigrants and US-born residents: 31.6 percent of those born in the US have a bachelor’s degree."
Executive Director Ben Clark wrote an opinion piece published in the Cambridge Chronicle in December entitled, "An open letter to the white community of Cambridge." "When I reflect honestly on racist and/or discriminatory things I’ve said or done, two decades ago or even last week, I feel a pit form in my stomach and deep shame. It’s natural to feel bad about these things and ashamed of how our actions diminish the experience of people who are dear to us. It’s also natural to wonder whether these things you’ve already done compromise your moral integrity. I believe the true test is in whether, upon more clearly recognizing how your actions impact others, you take responsibility and corrective action."
Enroot is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering immigrant youth to achieve academic, career, and personal success through inspiring out-of-school experiences.
Ben Clark, Enroot’s Executive Director, wrote an open letter to the white community of Cambridge featured in the Cambridge Chronicle.
“For a city that has long championed civil rights and discourse on equity and inclusion, it is alarming how Cambridge’s ongoing struggles with racism remain a daily part of life for so many residents of color. Sadly, most white people like me remain passive in a situation that demands active resistance.
In recent months there have been countless incidents of racism and hatred around greater Boston -- from graffiti in schools to death threats made to Muslim students. Here in Cambridge, the two racist incidents at our high school in the last week were just the latest to put the issue on full display.
These disturbing occurrences point to a much broader and unfortunate trend across the country, as captured in November’s FBI report, which highlighted a 17 percent spike in hate crimes nationwide in the last year. It’s important to measure and condemn such overt acts of oppression, yet many more subtle moments go unrecorded and unnoticed every day by those who are not victims.
Everyone is susceptible to implicit bias in thought and action. But those of us who are white and benefit each day from our white privilege must be especially honest with ourselves about our ugliest biases and all the ways they manifest themselves in discriminatory actions.
To my fellow white community members, I urge you -- take time to look yourself humbly in the mirror and consider the biases you hold that cause you to view people of color in an inferior light. Search your memory for moments in recent months and years when you acted in a way that diminished the dignity and well-being of people of color in your life.”
A college education bestows undeniable career advantages. What can be learned from the astonishing successes of immigrant students in the US over the last 30 years?
“At Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) in Cambridge, Mass., students flood into the international student center after the bell rings, marking the end of the school day.
One of them is Nafis Rahman, a high school senior from Bangladesh who arrived in the United States in 2016. After spending his first year in classes specifically for English-language learners, he’s now able to take courses with the mainstream students at CRLS. His favorite: Advanced Placement Computer Science.
Greeting him and others are staff from Enroot, a nonprofit that works with immigrant high school students in Cambridge and Somerville, Mass. They pepper the students with questions: Are you coming to the leadership workshop this week? When was the last time you talked to your mentor?
It’s the kind of holistic approach that students like Nafis say they find helpful. He has received tutoring, mentoring, and an internship from Enroot – and is now applying to college.
“Tomorrow I’m going to submit applications to all the UMass [schools] and WPI,” he says, referring to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass.
Across the country, the education levels of immigrants have been steadily rising over the past several decades, partly because of programs like Enroot that focus on providing long-term support. In 1980, about 16 percent of immigrants had earned a bachelor’s degree. By 2016, the number grew to 30 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. This increase has all but closed the gap between immigrants and US-born residents: 31.6 percent of those born in the US have a bachelor’s degree.
While immigrants from South and East Asia are most likely to hold a bachelor’s degree, and college graduates from those groups are more likely to remain in the US to work, educational attainment is rising among all ethnicities and origin countries. For example, the number of Mexican immigrants 25 and older with a high school diploma has more than doubled since 1980 – from 11.4 to 25.2 percent. Experts say it’s necessary to take the long view to see those numbers rise more.
Educators who work with immigrant students, especially at the high school level, say it’s necessary to take the long view to see those numbers rise even more.
Sandra Cañas, Enroot’s Cambridge program director, has found that many of the immigrant students who arrive at CRLS are highly driven and hold themselves to high standards but need extra resources as they adjust to a new learning experience.
“Some of the students come with one parent, and they don’t have the support or the guidance they need to make decisions in regards to school issues,” she says. “The whole process is so daunting ... we feel that it is important that students get the support they need for whatever they want to do.”’
Earlier this summer we watched as political newcomers challenged the existing political landscape in districts around the country. Their primary victories were just a foreshadowing of a uniquely exciting mid-term election. This year an unprecedented surge in women candidates and candidates of color present a generational opportunity to re-draw the political landscape for decades to come.
Last week a close friend’s mother was studying for the Civics exam for US citizenship and I was struck by two questions,
“What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens” and “Name one right only for United States citizens”
It occurred to me how privileged we are to have the right to participate in an election that has far-reaching implications, especially when so many others including many of our Enroot families cannot, despite working hard and paying taxes.
Especially at this juncture in our country’s history, it’s essential that all of us who enjoy this privilege utilize it to further advance equity and justice in our communities. Your vote is your voice, and the voice of so many others without one.
It’s also important we use our voice to bring attention to the important issues at stake and encourage those around us to vote too. Share a message with friends about the ballot questions. Offer rides on election day to those who need assistance getting to the polls.
Our newsletter this month spotlights “Student Voice.” Many of our students had the opportunity to showcase their improving public speaking skills as they shared their experiences with community members at events around Cambridge and Somerville. We hope you enjoy seeing them in action.
Regardless of which candidates you believe in, thanks for making sure you vote and for using YOUR voice to fight for justice.
Yours in Solidarity,
Conversation with the Commissioner
On October 10th, students, staff, and community members participated in a town hall on the State of Latino Education in Somerville with Jeff Riley, the Massachusetts Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Somerville students asked critical questions about the state of education for immigrants and Latino students, ranging from the high cost of college for students without documentation in Massachusetts to creating a more inclusive curriculum showcasing diverse and representative writers and historical figures. Read more about the event on our blog.
Spotlight on Student Voice
Enroot students from Cambridge and Somerville shared their stories of immigration and finding community at Cambridge Community Foundation's "The Immigrant Experience: Learning Through Art and Community Voice." The event was held in Harvard Yard, with Teresita Fernandez’s temporary public art installation, Autumn (…Nothing Personal), as the backdrop. Thank you to Cambridge Community Foundation for inviting us to participate! Read more about the event here.
The Cambridge Historical Society delved into questions of identity, belonging, and welcoming at their fall event: "Where is Cambridge From." Three Enroot students presented their stories of immigration from India, Haiti, and Morocco to the United States, focusing on their journey to learn English, navigate a new school system, and find community in a new city. Read about the event on our blog.
This year, Enroot is matching 175 immigrant students with caring adult mentors who will meet with them once a week over the course of the year, working on everything from college applications to practicing English. A few highlights from our mentoring cohorts:
Cambridge: Students met with their mentors on Tuesday night and got to know each other over pizza through games and activities, including a rock paper scissor championship!
Somerville: Explore and Leadership students met their mentors at our Mentor Match nights, where they "interviewed" each other and learned what they have in common. They formed and untangled a "human knot" and played a game involving balancing cookies on their forheads.
Microsoft Volunteers with Enroot
Microsoft volunteers joined us on Tuesday to put together care packages for Enroot's College Success students. Volunteers wrote cards and stuffed envelopes to send our College Success students some extra support as they head into mid-term exams. One of our current Enroot students stopped by to ask how Microsoft volunteers found their career path and any recommendations they had for an aspiring computer scientist. Thank you to Microsoft for being a partner is hosting student field trips, volunteering, and holding micro-fundraisers for Enroot.
Enroot is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering immigrant youth to achieve academic, career, and personal success through inspiring out-of-school experiences.
We write to share with you that Enroot’s Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to sell the building we own at 99 Bishop Allen Drive in Cambridge. After many months of consultation, discussion and deliberation, we determined this change was essential to enable Enroot to continue delivering on its mission, “To empower immigrant youth to achieve academic, career, and personal success through inspiring out-of-school time experiences.” We feel a moral imperative to address the growing need among immigrant youth and their families in our communities, particularly in our current political and economic climate.
Our building is now more than 100 years old, and the increasing costs of maintenance and operation have constrained our organization’s ability to focus on our primary mission. Our paramount responsibility is to ensure we can sustainably pursue our mission and to serve more students.
Enroot remains as committed as ever to advancing equity through its support of immigrant students in Cambridge and Somerville, and will continue to grow the number of students we serve in both communities. We’re proud that nearly all of our students complete high school and our alumni go on to complete college at nearly triple the rate of comparable students. Over the last 25 years, with broad community support, and in close partnership with the Cambridge Public Schools and City of Cambridge, we’ve expanded the number of students we serve from 20 to nearly 200 today. Our 10-year vision for the future is to serve 1200 students in the surrounding area. The sale of our building supports our ability to meet the expanding needs of the immigrant community.
As a small non-profit, we deeply value the work of our fellow nonprofits in the building, many of whom have shared this space for years. Their continued success is essential to our community. We recognize the challenge they will face to secure a space that meets their organizational needs, and carefully considered this during our decision-making.
As we initiate the process to explore this sale we will work diligently to ensure the transition minimizes disruption for our students and those who occupy space in the building, as well as the wider community. While many details lie ahead, we are actively engaged in ongoing communications with neighboring nonprofits and do not plan to initiate a sale before 2019.
We are confident that by re-focusing our energies, we will be better equipped to respond to the growing needs of the immigrant student population.
We welcome questions and concerns from the community. Please direct communication to Executive Director Ben Clark, email@example.com.