June 21, 2016 / Grand Strategy, News / Posted by: Elise Hanks


Emily Lederman, our new Community Organizing and Policy Advocate


Thanks to The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Grand St. Settlement will welcome it’s first Public Fellow in September 0f 2016. The Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program pairs government and nonprofit agencies with PhDs in the humanities or humanistic social sciences, advancing the understanding of the possibilities awarded by an advanced humanities degree and the hands-on experience of recent graduates. We could not be more thrilled to have been awarded not only a place in this tremendous program but also such an outstanding advocate.

Emily’s belief in the power of voice and narrative set her apart from other candidates; her experience teaching literature and creative writing was grounded in helping students to develop their voice and join the fight for social justice. She loves fostering community connections, pushing for educational reform, and empowering young women leaders.

Below are a few questions we sent her way to help you get to know Emily a little better.


Feeling connected to the community is an important part of advocacy work. Can you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to come to NYC to advocate for communities in the LES and Brooklyn?

I’m drawn to advocate for communities in NYC because my own family history ties me to the area. As a granddaughter and great-granddaughter of immigrants who came to NYC to escape violence and religious persecution (from Ireland, Russia, Poland, and Italy), I feel connected to the area, and to communities struggling for justice today. Settlement houses on the Lower East Side were important community spaces for my own family members, and so I feel very fortunate to be able to advocate for and help redefine support systems for today’s New Yorkers.


What moment do you look back on as a victory in your career or studies as a community advocate?

I’m most proud of designing courses that use culturally relevant literature to empower students in under-resourced communities. When I was teaching a college English course to low-income high school students, several students told me that the course inspired them to write their own stories, and that the readings for the course were the first stories they had read that felt relevant and important. It has been incredibly gratifying to see my students invest in learning and succeed as leaders.


What are some of your favorite ways to get to know a community?

I love listening to community members tell their stories. I also like attending casual events like barbecues in the park that bring people together. Some of the most meaningful community experiences I’ve had have occurred on trips I’ve organized that get everyone out of their everyday settings and allow for great conversation and bonding.


When you aren’t at work, how do you like to spend your time?

When not at work, I love going on hiking and camping trips. I also practice yoga, ride my bike around, and read lots of novels.

Please join us in welcoming Emily! We can’t wait for her arrival in September when she will partner with our leadership team to help us advance our Strategic Priority of Community Advocacy and Organizing.

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