I had preconceived ideas of what leadership has to look like. Leadership is not necessarily attached to a title.

CFES alumna, Enmy Soler, learned a valuable lesson on leadership while attending a leadership retreat for women of color during her time at the University of Vermont. The conference helped her redefine what it means to be a leader. “Leadership can be helping out in the household, being a parent, or stepping back so others can move forward,” she says. In many ways, Soler is a leader in her personal and professional life.

Soler attended Pelham Prep Academy in the Bronx, New York where she became involved with CFES. As the daughter of immigrants and a first generation college student, Soler says she always wanted to go to college but didn’t have the information and resources she needed to understand the college application process. She credits CFES for keeping her focused and introducing her to the college application process and the college experience. She remembers attending a CFES event in which CFES alumni from Pelham Prep shared their experiences as first-year college students. “It was impactful to have other students from similar backgrounds talking about college,” she reflects.

Soler describes her first two years at UVM as a difficult time in her college career. Feeling culture shock and academically unprepared, she questioned whether she could continue at UVM. Soler says she had to put her pride aside to admit she was having a hard time and reach out for help. Despite feeling unsure about her math abilities, Soler earned an A in her statistics course because she consistently attended her professor’s office hours. She also found support and community at the Mosaic Center for Students of Color at UVM, where she developed a deeper understanding of the challenges she faced as an underrepresented student. Soler is proud of the self-advocacy and confidence she developed as a student at UVM. “Finding confidence and being in tune with who I am and what I want is my greatest accomplishment,” she says.

The community Soler built motivated her to stay at UVM after graduation. She worked in the Women’s’ Center while completing an Interdisciplinary Studies Masters of Education Program. Soler still lives in Vermont today with her fiancé, Manny Tejeda, who also attended and works at UVM, and their one-year-old son Oliver.