How LEAP Youth Fellows Gave Back to Their Communities
Participants in the Casey Foundation’s 2023 LEAP Youth Fellowship — a paid one-year leadership training program that brings together 10 young adults from across the country — helped design projects aimed at leveraging their strengths and interests to support community connection and service.
LEAP Youth Projects in Action
This year, LEAP youth fellows and member organizations participated in several projects:
- Collecting basic items for youth experiencing homelessness. A San Diego-based youth leader worked with SBCS — formerly South Bay Community Services — to help young people who are experiencing homelessness or who are struggling to access basic necessities. The project, carried out in collaboration with other local youth-serving organizations, collected hygiene and clothing items that a team of volunteers distributed to the young people in need.
- Addressing food insecurity. In New York City, a youth fellow with the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services collaborated with a local church on a youth-led food drive for community members facing food insecurity.
- Helping young people respond to trauma. A youth fellow with the University of Southern Maine facilitated a workshop and youth panel exploring the effects of adverse childhood experiences on young people. The event also examined how adults can help young people form positive relationships with adoptive and biological family members.
- Providing drug overdose education. Another New York City-based LEAP member worked with The Door to buoy a project centered on drug overdose prevention. At the youth-led event, young people were invited to share their stories, complete Narcan certification training and network with representatives from organizations specializing in harm reduction.
“This year’s projects were successful because of the thoughtfulness and dedication of the youth fellows who led them,” says Dina Emam, a Casey Foundation program associate. “While there were challenges that arose in the planning and execution of each project, the fellows expertly navigated them. Going forward, they intend to use the skills gained through these projects to support their education and career journeys, as well as their communities.”
The Casey Foundation’s Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP)™ connects young people who have experienced homelessness, foster care or involvement in the criminal justice system with supportive employment and educational opportunities.
“The LEAP youth fellowship program equips young leaders to lead and advocate for themselves, their peers and their communities,” says Emam. “Nothing can replace real world experience, and it was so inspiring to see our youth fellows develop and carry out these deeply personal projects that help bring youth together and help make their communities stronger.”