College counselor Lisa Gruenbaum departing to focus on kids


Alyssa Wallack

SPIRIT: Ms. Gruenbaum’s loved Shalhevet’s communal bonding.

By Jacob Joseph Lefkowitz Brooks, Features Editor

Writing a college essay requires self-reflection, and departing college counselor Ms. Lisa Gruenbaum said last week that helping students do that brought helped her decide to move on from her position as Associate Director of College Counseling and Academic Guidance.

“I was just at graduation today and I think I will be bawling my eyes out in seven years when my own son graduates High School,” said Ms. Gruenbaum said June 4. “It goes really fast and I want to enjoy all the amazing things we have going on in our personal life.”

Ms. Gruenbaum, who arrived at Shalhevet in 2013 as College Counseling Associate, assisting then College Counseling Director Ms. Aviva Walls, said helping students articulate their dreams led to her decision to leave, which was announced May 4.

She said high school students want to figure out their future and how they can contribute to the greater good of the world.

“That doesn’t end when you graduate high school,” Ms. Gruenbaum said in an interview. “That’s something that you’re constantly seeking to find. Trying to find meaning in your everyday interactions and purpose in your life.”

Ms. Gruenbaum took maternity leave in September and October of 2016, and her children are now 11, 9, 4 and 1 year old.

“We all know life is a journey that steers us in many different directions, and the next step for me is to focus fully on raising my own four children and be at the helm of my family life,” Ms. Gruenbaum  wrote in a letter to the Shalhevet community included in Rabbi Segal’s weekly newsletter.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Gruenbaum had worked in Penn’s admissions office from 2011 to 2013, and had been an editor’s assistant at US Weekly, a kindergarten teacher at Yavneh and social events planner for AishLA.

She said she had especially enjoyed helping Shalhevet students with their essays.

“That’s when I find I can connect to students most,” she said, “and try and get them to dig deep inside of themselves, pull out who they really are and what they want to say about themselves and how they want to present themselves to the world.”

Students found her guidance helpful.

“She helped me figure out where I should apply,” said senior Ariel Cohen, who will start at Yale next year, “patiently went through all of the considerations when I was deciding on where to apply early, and encouraged and supported me throughout the whole process — Including celebrating the acceptance.”

Ms. Gruenbaum said her favorite experiences at Shalhevet had involved school spirit.

“Singing in the hallways when the choir will sing, in the atrium in the lobby, and the whole school gathers around to have that emotional, spiritual, religious experience all together as a community — that’s definitely one of my favorite moments that happens fairly regularly,” she said.

“It shows the heart of the school and the real community vibe that is present at those times and really at all moments. Wherever you’re at — at a baseball game, a basketball game, at Town Hall — that’s one of my favorite things.”

In addition to working in college counseling with Dean of Academic Affairs Ms. Aviva Walls, Ms. Gruenbaum started a running club which took place every Friday after school.

“I love connecting with students outside of the intellectual academic environment,” said Ms. Gruenbaum. “I think that’s what Shalhevet does well, is give students and faculty ways to engage with each other beyond the normal student-teacher relationship. It gives you a time to let loose together, relax together and realize that we’re all human and that we can enjoy the same things, and get to know each other on a deeper level which I think helps you inside the classroom as well or in your typical day-to-day job.”

Sophomore Maya Schapira, a member of the running club, said she would miss Ms. Gruenbaum and hope the club would re-start next year after being mostly dormant in 2017-18.

“She ran it really well and considered everyone’s different paces,” said Maya. “I know I felt like it was a great experience for me. The club made me realize how much I like to run… Hopefully we can keep the club going next year.”

On the same day he announced Ms. Gruenbaum’s departure, Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal announced that Ms. Gruenbaum’s position will be filled by Eli Shavalian.