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Darien, CT — For DHS senior Holly Gordon, Uganda and Nicaragua are only a short leap from one another, especially when students in each community make a commitment to impact shared, issues. Identifying these common issues and then equipping students—locally and globally—with the leadership skills to change their communities is one of Gordon’s passions.
In the spring of 2011, Gordon took her first LEAP to Lead training class, which challenged her to define her goals and taught her how to organize a diverse team of like-minded students that would collaborate to accomplish those goals. For that year, Gordon built a team of students from Norwalk Carver Center, Darien High School and LEAD Uganda; they launched initiatives to combat the Achievement Gap in both countries, as well as shared diverse perspectives about issues like stereotypes, respect, cultural traditions, family values, health and education.
In 2012, as that group became well established and continued to collaborate, Gordon traveled to Nicaragua to teach English as a second language with a group called Alianza Americana. Upon her return, she passed the reigns of LEAP to Uganda to members of her local team, and decided she would like to develop a LEAP to Nicaragua to further the leadership and linguistic mission of Alianza Americana. Together they decided to use literature as a means to unite diverse communities and provide an alternative view to leadership in a corrupt society.
“The students here want to learn English and leadership because English is needed for many of the desirable professions and leadership without curruption is not the norm.” said Oscar Aragón, International Program Director of Alianza Americana. “I am speaking with my staff of teachers here, because I want to incorporate LEAP as part of our program curriculum. We are ready for the challenge!”
Gordon realized that in order to give the students in Nicaragua the tools to succeed, she would need to equip them with the training she had received just a year before. So Gordon asked to be trained to teach the LEAP to Lead course, and has since taught leadership to 30 of her peers in New Canaan, Darien, Stamford and Norwalk. Now prepared to train the trainers, Gordon will return to Nicaragua, after graduation from DHS in June, to teach to Alianza’s students and teachers the LEAP to Lead class and further develop the structure needed to integrate the LEAP model into their community.
“The local and global teams will work together to build a library of literature as well as reading and writing programs designed to develop independent thinking skills and confidence amongst students from varied backgrounds,” says Gordon. “I just love being a part of seeing young people, just like me, gain the confidence to make changes in their communities. We all have a voice, and the sooner we realize that we can use our voices to come together to attain our common goals, the better.”
According to LEAP founder Lauren Calahan, “These programs are being developed by students as an alternative to short term leadership in homogenous bubbles, ‘serving’ without personal, working connections, and fundraising for someone else’s vision. LEAP students are challenged to commit to a vision of their choice and then empowered and coached to see this vision to fruition. In Holly Gordon’s case, in 2 short years, the vision has impacted 160 students in 6 diverse communities: Uganda, Nicaragua Darien, New Canaan, Stamford and Norwalk. I believe that if you train them to lead, to know next door as equals and to use ingenuity, collaboration and communication to impact the local and global communities, we can re-define the impact each student can have on his or her world.”