How LEAP Youth Fellows Gave Back to Their Communities

Posted October 24, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young adults, all 2023 LEAP fellows, pose on a staircase, smiling at the camera.

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.”

About LEAP

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.”

Dis­cov­er how a LEAP fel­low helped trans­form rooms for youth in fos­ter care

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