June 2012 – In Darien and the surrounding towns, such as Norwalk, New Canaan, and Stamford, few opportunities exist for young adults to learn together. Often the only opportunities these young adults have to interact are through competitive sports programs. Addressing this lack of interaction and mutual learning, Leaders Educated as Philanthropists (LEAP), an expanding non-profit organization founded by Lauren Calahan in 2011, creates a unique partnership where three disparate communities commit to act as leaders and resolve a mission of their choice. The first stage of a LEAP is the LEAP to Lead class, a 12-unit leadership training and development course centered upon sustainable leadership skills in order to cultivate the powerful leaders of tomorrow. Students from Darien, Norwalk, New Canaan, and Stamford work together toward becoming self-aware, confident, and empowered leaders, all while building relationships and learning from each other. Darien student John Mackey stated, “The atmosphere is so comfortable and no one’s judging you.” Since May of 2012, students, ranging in age from middle school to Junior year of high school, attended a LEAP to Lead class every Wednesday from 6pm to 7:30pm. Seven students came from the Carver Center in Norwalk while the rest were from Darien and New Canaan.
One of the key features of the LEAP to Lead class is the constant peer coaching. The class was taught by four high school students who previously completed a LEAP to Lead class and/or are already part of a LEAP in Action. The co-leaders work together to engage their peers, empowering them to see and believe in their ability to reach their full potential. Demitrica Williams, a student from the Carver Center in Norwalk, said, “I think that a lot of people should use this idea to help stop bullying.”
LEAP Cycle of Leadership
LEAP to Lead is the first stage in a cycle of leadership based on experiential learning. Throughout the cycle, students are encouraged to lead different aspects of their LEAP partnership, also known as a LEAP in Action, and eventually, lead their own LEAP to Lead class. LEAP’s overall mission is to: “Engage young people from disparate socioeconomic and cultural communities, as equals, in curricular and after school discussions and activities designed to ensure that they see themselves as important, act as leaders, and build outreach programs that create the change they envision.”
While the LEAP to Lead class, and the LEAPs in Action, are unique and transformative for the students, their impact is felt as diverse local communities partner with one global community and collaborate to identify a specific issue around which to design and implement a vision for change. New Canaan student and co-leader of the class Abby Herman explained, “Through LEAP, I have come to realize that no matter how different cultures or lifestyles may be, the partnerships between communities is vital, and can lead to the greatest ideas.”
Holly Gordon, Darien student, leader of LEAP to Lead Uganda and co-leader of this LEAP to Lead class emphasized that, “Every stage of LEAP is designed to test my confidence,” empower individuals to become self- aware leaders, unite communities, and impact the world in a never-ending process. LEAP not only targets the root of many global issues, but also creates a framework for continued leadership and united outreach across the world. In the words of New Canaan student and co-leader Will Cuoco, “It’s a really unique experience.”
LEAP is always looking for more leaders! If you are interested in becoming a part of the program, LEAP is holding another class in the Fall of 2012. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.