Shira LedmanShira Ledman, Executive Director
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(Master’s Degree in Social Work from University of Maryland)

Mrs. Ledman joined the Seedling Foundation in July 2014 after moving to Austin from Tucson, Arizona. She brings with her over 20 years of management experience, most recently as the Chief Executive Officer for Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona (JFCS). In that capacity, she served as the chief professional officer for a $2.8M multi-service behavioral health/social service agency that served 7,000 Tucsonans annually. During her tenure at JFCS, Mrs. Ledman led the growth of the agency’s services by developing extensive partnerships that included school-based, integrated health care, and domestic violence shelter settings. 

Mrs. Ledman’s previous Executive Director experience at the Spina Bifida Association of Georgia (SBAG) expressed her commitment to children and adults with developmental disabilities. While at SBAG she expanded programs which supported both the people with Spina Bifida and their families. At the same time, Mrs. Ledman led a coalition of non-profit and government agencies dedicated to raising public awareness of how to prevent this birth defect. 

Mrs. Ledman’s management experience spans the community planning arena as well. In the position of Chief Planning Officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, she oversaw Federation’s community planning endeavors, government relations activities and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities initiative. She served as a consultant to the Federation’s affiliate agencies and schools with assistance in areas such as strategic planning and board development. 

Mrs. Ledman’s years in direct service focused primarily on children experiencing a variety of challenges from developmental disabilities to abuse/neglect to truancy. She has worked with and within settings ranging from schools to juvenile court to health care. Her volunteerism has centered on hunger relief and breast cancer awareness in communities in which she has lived.

Mrs. Ledman received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and her Masters of Social Work Degree from the University of Maryland. She is married to Bob Ledman, a college professor, and administrator. They live in the northwest area with their rescued toy poodle, Boomer. 


Falba Turner, Director of Mentor Programs 
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(Master’s Degree from University of Texas)

Falba is an education project manager with over 30 years experience in public and private schools, PK-12. She began her career with the Austin Independent School District and served nine years in varied roles such as language arts teacher for middle school and high school in north and east Austin, educator on loan to Region XIII ESC to help implement the 1980 desegregation order, and “one-room” schoolteacher for the 1983 Senate Page School. She has been the principal of two high-profile Catholic elementary/middle schools in Austin for a total of 18 years, including a school that she was asked to plan and launch within a year’s time. That campus earned designation as a National Blue Ribbon School only five years later. During five years as a Senior Assessment Consultant with ACT, Inc., Falba traveled over five states working with schools, districts, and state agencies on school improvement initiatives and training hundreds of teachers and administrators in curriculum alignment and assessment. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of Dallas and a Master’s in Educational Administration from the University of Texas.

At Seedling, she combines her knowledge of children’s developmental stages, vast experience in school culture and operations, expertise in organizational facilitation, and passion for justice for young people at the fringes of our society to lead our team serving children, their mentors, and the school personnel who are our partners. Falba lives in Southwest Austin with her husband Paul, an Austin ISD central administrator. Their daughter Emily and her family live in Memphis, TN.


Gillian HS

Gillian Coates, Director of Development
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(J.D.; St. Mary’s University, B.S.: Saint Mary’s College, South Bend, IN)
Gillian joins Seedling Foundation as the Director of Development with over 15 years non-profit experience in education and the arts. Gillian is a creative results-driven nonprofit management professional who has experience generating revenue, increasing support bases for expanding organizations and crafting long-term strategies for growth and sustainability. Prior to joining Seedling, Gillian was the Director of Development at Austin Film Society, responsible for all fundraising operations of the organization including major gifts, Texas Film Awards, grants, membership, annual giving, donor and board relations, as well as strategic and capital campaign planning. Under her leadership as Director of Development and Communications at Breakthrough Austin, the development team raised 25% more revenue each year than the annual budget and helped grow the organization expand to a second site over a period of 5 years.
Gillian’s experience at Breakthrough with low-income students and their commitment to become the first in their family to graduate from college cemented her desire to help organizations that are seeking equity for children, no matter their family circumstances. Gillian spent the first ten years of her career practicing criminal appellate law and has found that her passion for children, education, and justice is well-suited for the mission of Seedling Foundation. She has raised three children who represent the University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, and Texas Tech University. Outside of work, Gillian enjoys walking the many trails of Austin and is a newly self-taught and self-proclaimed abstract artist.


Bea Benson
Bea Benson, Mentor Director
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(Master’s Degree from Cardinal Stritch College)

Bea joined the Seedling Foundation after 30 successful years in public and private school education. Formerly she was employed by the Austin Independent School District as a Curriculum Specialist for the district’s middle and high school language arts programs. Her professional roles have included an adjunct teacher at community/junior colleges, state assessment writer, and consultant for school districts and education agencies. Currently, she is the education consultant for Edge of Your Seat Consulting. Bea was recognized by the Texas Legislature and the State Board of Education for writing outstanding lesson plans that would serve as templates for state adopted textbooks. Bea was one of the 120 outstanding women selected from across the state to participate in the 2011 Leadership Texas Class.

Bea received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Tennessee State University and her Master’s Degree in Secondary Reading Instruction from Cardinal Stritch College in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, as well as additional graduate work in Leadership and Educational Administration at Mount Mary’s College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

As a Mentor Director for the Seedling Foundation, Bea is grateful for the opportunity to nurture the men and women (mentors) who bring compassion and hope into the lives of children of prisoners. Bea is happily married to Taft Benson and is the proud mother of Maurice and Pam. She has two grandchildren, Allyson and Preston. 


Lynn Cozart, Mentor Director
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(Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Texas State University)

Lynn joined the Seedling Foundation with 28 years experience as a Special Education teacher in our area public school districts. Lynn has served in teacher leadership roles where she supervised and assisted teachers in order to coordinate services and develop individual program plans for students with special needs. Most recently she served as Special Education Department Chair at Burnet Middle School in AISD. While Lynn’s area of teaching expertise is in teaching reading and writing to middle school students with learning disabilities, she has mentored numerous students and beginning teachers. Outside the world of work, Lynn has been a volunteer with the Sunshine Kids Foundation where she has assisted in planning and coordinating positive life experiences for young cancer patients.

Through her teaching experiences, Lynn recognizes the importance for children of incarcerated parents to develop meaningful relationships with compassionate positive role models. At Seedling, Lynn is pleased to share her knowledge of child development and the positive spirit of mentorship with members of our community. Lynn has a Bachelor of Science in Habilitation of the Deaf from Texas Christian University and a Master’s in Educational Administration from Texas State University.

She lives with her husband Gary in Northwest Austin.


Sabra Fugate, Mentor Director/Trainer
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(Master’s Degree in Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University)
Sabra joined the Seedling family with over 20 years experience in social work, including 15 years with Communities In Schools (CIS), providing and leading case management and social services to students and their families at all school levels in Austin ISD and Del Valle ISD. In this work, she had the privilege of working with youth in helping develop their leadership skills through understanding racism, enhancing empathy, and using their voice for change. Sabra also planned dropout prevention strategies; recruited, trained, and supported mentors; and developed her reputation as a skilled trainer for staff and volunteers alike. 

In 2009, Sabra became the Program Coordinator for CIS at the state level, housed at Texas Education Agency. While at TEA, Sabra achieved CIS Master Trainer Certification and planned and managed the yearly statewide summer training for others holding the credential. Sabra earned a Bachelor’s in Social Work at Texas Tech University and her Master’s in Social Work at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Sabra’s passion has always been working with young people and helping them find their unique way in the world.

She loves living in Austin and spending time outdoors with her husband John, who is also a mental health professional, and their 12-year-old son.


Connie Howe, Program Coordinator
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(Indiana University

Connie brings over 20 years of experience working with children and families in the non-profit sector.  In five years working in the Caribbean and Central America, Connie’s areas of impact included spearheading a four-community-wide Latrine Building Project, collaborating with the local school to bring education programming for healthy choices and environmental awareness, training community health workers on fundraising and project development/management (all in the Dominican Republic with the U.S. Peace Corps), and serving as CFO and acting Country Director for Global Education Partnership in Guatemala, training youth in computer and job skills for the global marketplace.

In Austin, she began as a Health Educator with People’s Community Clinic, including work specifically with homeless youth. Most recently, Connie spent 12 years developing and honing her skills and expertise in the field of youth mentoring at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, working her way up from Match Support Specialist to Vice President of Programs.  Connie has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University and is bilingual in English/Spanish.

At Seedling, Connie is looking forward to using her years of experience and expertise working with children and youth, and her passion for social justice to support agency growth and continued programmatic excellence.  Connie lives in East Austin with her treasured dog, Harlow.  Together they love spending time with 13-year-old Deandrea, whom Connie has been mentoring since August of 2008.


Molly Latham, Mentor Director/Recruiter
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(Texas A&M University

Molly is joining the Seedling Foundation having spent her entire professional career working with underserved youth. Molly graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Africana Studies and Racial and Ethnic Studies.

Following her first job as an Investigator with Child Protective Services, Molly served as a volunteer supervisor with CASA of Travis County, supporting and guiding her volunteers as they navigated the complex child welfare field. In her most recent role with CASA, she worked with the Volunteer Recruitment and Retention team to develop and execute recruitment and retention strategies in an effort of creating a more diverse volunteer base.

Molly is passionate about serving the Austin community. She sits as a Council Member on the CAN Community Council and is involved with local outreach and volunteer groups including North Austin Influencers, CASA of Travis County, Treefolks, Con Mi Madre, and Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas in Austin.

When not at work, Molly enjoys hiking, crafting, and spending time with her adorable, yet mischievous, rescue Sheltie, Charlie.


Amelia HSAmelia Paramo, Mentor Director

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(Masters Degree in Social Work from University of Texas, Austin)


Amelia joins the Seedling Foundation with more than fourteen years of experience as a school social worker, including 10 years with the Austin Independent School District, 2 years with Del Valle ISD and 1 year with both Round Rock ISD and Pflugerville ISD. 


She brings to Seedling vast and varied experiences including a deep knowledge base in Positive Behaviour Supports (PBS).  While in AISD she was a team member and leader for the very successful and effective district level PBS initiative which helped in creating positive campus climates, reducing disciplinary infractions and improving student academic achievement.  As a Safe and Drug-Free Schools Middle School Program Coordinator, she was responsible for coordinating community-based programs aimed at preventing and reducing the use of drugs and alcohol by middle school students.  


In her capacity as Community Liaison in Del Valle ISD Amelia served students and families eligible for the Federal Migrant Program as a case manager supporting students and their families as well as teachers and administrators at Hornsby-Dunlap in varied capacities including coordinating programs aimed at improving student academic achievement.   


Coming to Seedling has brought her full circle; back to working in support of students.  For this opportunity, Amelia is very grateful and hopeful that she can once again make a positive difference in the lives of ‘at-risk’ students!


Amelia earned both her Bachelor of Social Work and her Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin.


Amelia is a proud native Texan! She and her two young sons, Diego age 13 and Xavier age 10, live in Round Rock. Together they enjoy traveling, the beach and Marvel movies! 



Juli HSJuli Wiegman, Mentor Director

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(Master's Degree in Counseling from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO)

Juli joins the Seedling Foundation with eight years of experience in education. She earned her bachelor's degree in bilingual education at Houston  Baptist University, but with a desire to participate in healing and restorative relationships, she also earned a master's degree in counseling.

While teaching Spanish in St. Louis, Juli was trained and became involved in racial reconciliation and diversity. With a passion for justice and equity and a heart of compassion for the oppressed, she led diversity committees and facilitated a staff seminar for SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity).

Juli also volunteered with Mission St. Louis and helped start a tutoring program and an after school program for two elementary schools in the St. Louis Public School District.

With her experience in education, counseling training, and passion for diversity and equity, Juli hopes to support Seedling mentors to form positive relationships with children in the Central Texas schools.
Juli lives with her husband, Isaac, and three children in San Marcos, where she enjoys hikes and floating down the river.



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