Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership, Inc. (LEAP) was founded in 1992 by educators, students, and community activists to address the historic disinvestment in young people of color in our city. Then and now LEAP believes that young people have the intellect, enthusiasm, courage, and leadership potential to make real change. LEAP creates the space and marshals the resources so that young leaders can mentor, educate and care for the children of New Haven.
College and high school student counselors provide LEAP’s direct services to younger children. They help with homework, provide emotional support, lead classroom literacy instruction, and teach swim lessons, cooking classes and computer science.
Their work is not easy as the systemic challenges faced by LEAP families are significant:
The neighborhoods served by LEAP have child poverty rates ranging from 35% to 58%, more than three times the Connecticut average of 15%.
This is why LEAP prides itself on employing over 200 young people and supporting their efforts to graduate high school and get into and graduate from college. We count among our alumni school teachers and principals, nonprofit executives, elected officials, business leaders, and community organizers.
In our community center and seven neighborhood-based sites, we provide children with a welcoming place to learn, explore and grow, while offering teens and young adults a platform to find their voice and become leaders and role models. Since our founding, LEAP has grown to become a trusted community institution serving and empowering over 1,000 local young people annually.
Our mission is to develop the strengths and talents of young leaders who create and implement year-round, neighborhood-based programs designed to achieve positive outcomes for children living in neighborhoods that have historically experienced systemic disinvestment.
LEAP is home for youth as young as 7 and as old as 24. We love to see young LEAPers join our free children's program and grow up with the above timeline. In doing so, they become the leaders and role models they once looked up to while also receiving stipends and salaries. Any young adult, however, is eligible to take on a leadership role regardless of their previous involvement with LEAP.
Community and School Centric
LEAP believes in equipping young people with the tools to lead change both in and beyond their neighborhoods. We serve children who live in five low-income and historically African American and Latino neighborhoods in New Haven: Dixwell, Dwight-Kensington, Fair Haven, the Hill, Quinnipiac Meadows, and Newhallville. LEAP runs our free afterschool and summer programming at New Haven Public Schools located in these communities, as well as at our community center in Wooster Square.
In our programs, LEAP seeks to make the entire city available to young people, from library cards and free bus passes to long-term partnerships with the city’s cultural institutions and recreational organizations. Young people at LEAP learn in neighborhood community gardens, hear from guest speakers born and raised in New Haven, read on the New Haven Green, and apply critical thinking and creativity to reimagine a future for their communities. Through the relationships they build with their counselors and mindful exploration of our city, LEAPers are empowered as the next generation of changemakers.
Multi-Tier Mentorship Model
LEAP values the opportunity for young people to grow within our organization, progressively taking on increased responsibility and leadership. Youth are organized into four age groups: Children (ages 7-12), Leaders in Training (ages 13-15), Junior Counselors (high school students), and Senior Counselors (college students). LEAP programming is tailored toward each child’s stage in development. For example, Leaders-in-Training start to take on new responsibilities by interning under counselors. Junior Counselors participate in extensive college prep and career advising to prepare them for high school graduation. Our success is reflected in our high retention rate. Fully one third of our counselors participated in LEAP themselves as children.
LEAP runs year-round and is split into three components: fall after-school, spring after-school, and summer camp. Our after-school program is three hours a day, Monday-Thursday. Our summer camp is eight hours a day, Monday-Friday. Some stay for several years, moving up through our age groups. LEAP kids love spending time at LEAP's Roslyn Milstein Meyer Community Center, home to our library, swimming pool, computer lab, teaching kitchen, gym, dance studio, and community garden.
City's Largest Youth Employer
LEAP counselors are trained and paid to do the important and often hard work of mentoring, supervising, and guiding children. LEAP is the largest employer of youth in New Haven: we train and hire over 200 young adults each year. A job at LEAP includes professional development for the future with sessions on resume writing, financial literacy, applying to college, SAT preparation and much more. Employing youth after school and over the summer is proven by research to be highly effective in creating bridges to academic success while making neighborhoods safer for children and teens.