By Becky Firesheets
Lehman College’s new LEAP to Teacher Coordinator Isaac Rodriguez is certainly not new to SLU. After two years as the Writing and Research Consultant for the Murphy Institute at Queens College, Isaac is thrilled for this opportunity to step up – and not just because his commute is shorter now.
“I love it so far,” he said of his new role. “It’s much easier to get to. But the advocacy part of the job is most alluring for me. We serve the adult learner; we serve the worker.”
For the uninitiated, LEAP to Teacher (LTT) is a specialized set of support services for UFT paraprofessionals pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in any field of study, offered at five CUNY campuses across all of New York City’s boroughs. Managed by Worker Education at SLU, this program serves nearly 600 students per year and is currently in the process of expanding to BMCC.
In Isaac’s words, “We [the LTT program] start from where the student is at and are available to help them throughout their trajectory. We emphasize that we’re here for them from beginning to end so if there are any hiccups along the way – securing financial aid, issues with the admissions process or academic problems – we are their point of contact and they can reach out to us whenever.”
In addition to diving headfirst into this promotion, Isaac is also in the process of completing his last year of social work training and applying to PhD programs. “A lot of what I do as a site coordinator for LTT is not that different than what I do in my social work training. These are all skills that transfer well to SLU. It’s wonderful to draw on.”
Isaac’s inspiration to pursue social work hit during his first job after high school as a residence counselor at a substance use transitional facility. In his position there, he helped participants transition to permanent housing and was struck by their “strength and resilience.” Upon moving to Queens College, Isaac became the overseer of the Murphy Institute Writing Center where he designed workshops, managed the Center’s outreach and communications, and provided tutoring sessions for union members. When asked how that position informs his current one, he said, “I love the fact that I have the academic support background so that when I am working with someone facing an academic challenge, I can address that and point them to resources to help them succeed.”
With the little bit of time remaining after work and school and finishing up PhD applications, Isaac likes to go hiking with close friends and take long walks in the woods. “If there’s anything I learned in social work, it’s that you have to take care of yourself. If we can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t provide service to our clients.”