Engage young people from diverse 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.
LEAP was founded in 2009 by Lauren Calahan and Mich Zeman. They were joined by Carter Via, Amy Forte, and Deborah Rosen to write the LEAP to Lead curriculum that distinguishes LEAP from all other leadership development programs. The LEAP team of educators brings their talents and experience as partners, entrepreneurs, coaches, philanthropists, ministers, and psychologists and has devoted their careers to creating local and global connections that make a significant difference throughout the world.
The LEAP model was inspired by a series of vignettes which, combined with the fact that Americans continue to spend $9 trillion on social services to impact issues like poverty, teen violence, cutting, obesity, rape, teen parenting, remedial education, drop out rates, and homelessness, prove that, with the best of intentions, our current system of aid is too often ineffective.
When participating in a dwindling community service program, a student in Boston said to Lauren that she was tired of helping people she did not know, and wanted to get know the people with whom she worked. When asked if she wanted to get to know and work with people locally or globally, she responded, “Both.” In that moment, she had revealed the smallest yet most impactful issue with today’s outreach. Her observations inspired us to begin the quest to transform outreach as a new solution to the following real life scenarios that we feel reveal a systemic problem with leadership, ingenuity, communication, confidence, integrity, and entitlement in our country.
A former child soldier, now a successful student in Uganda, walks into an American school and asks:
“Why are the American students wearing their pants down by their ankles…
Why are they being disrespectful to their peers, adults and family, and…
Why, when I am working for $.73 a day in a rock quarry just to afford a uniform to go to school, do American students take for granted the education and gifts that are before them…?”
An affluent student is rebuilding a playground with a school group and looks up to see the faces of those who will be using the playground, sitting in their apartments, watching them work. She asks if the two groups could work together, and her teachers say: “That won’t work, we can’t do that…It would be embarrassing for them…It is your turn to work on their behalf.”
An affluent student, in the middle of a sports competition with an inner-city school, looks at their opponent and says, “In a few years you’ll be mowing my lawn.”
An inner city student says to an affluent student, “All white people think they are better than we are,” and “I have no confidence, why should I share my business with you?”
LEAP believes that today’s outreach, leadership development, and diversity have had a limited effect because we lack the integrity of collaborative, community engagement between diverse, trained leaders. We have become a culture of aid without personal connections or sustainable outcomes, a culture that breeds entitlement and cultural barriers as obstacles that transcend age, politics, race, finances, gender, and education, and perpetuate a loss of integrity, self esteem, respect and hope.
Our country has an opportunity to use outreach, diversity, social media and telecommunication tools as a means by which to train empowered, confident leaders who are committed to unite diverse communities and use ingenuity and communication to collaborate and design solutions to the world’s problems.
To prepare the next generation for the 21st-century melting pot, we have a responsibility to train our students to make something from nothing, with people they don’t know, in order to address chronic issues, both in their community and across the globe.
“LEAP collaborative partnerships will help to diminish the increasing economic inequality in America. Think of LEAP as the civil rights movement for people everywhere, a movement that transcends race, culture, class, gender and age, ending both economic segregation, by fostering relationships between the affluent areas and their poorer neighbors, and the mindset that we are victims of circumstance.”