By Guest Blogger Ally Ponte
While it has been an undeniably hard year for our country and the world, many organizations and community leaders have been working tirelessly to combat problems caused by Covid-19 and a long history of systemic racism and social problems in our country.
One local organization is working to provide support and leadership skills to low-income/at risk preteen girls and has not let Covid-19 stand in the way of its mission, especially when our girls need it the most.
Learning Everyday Accomplishing Dreams (LEAD) is dedicated to providing the tools and resources that low-income/at-risk preteen girls must have to become productive citizens and active leaders in their communities. Using an evidence-based curriculum, LEAD encourages and mentors girls to aspire and achieve greatness academically, emotionally and creatively.
Founded in 2015 by executive director, Joy Nelson Thomas, LEAD has partnered with Title I schools in Forsyth Country to provide leadership workshops to at-risk preteen girls. The organization also offers a Community LEAD program open to any local middle school girls, hosted at their downtown Winston-Salem office on 4th street.
In addition to the workshops during the school year, LEAD also hosts the annual Girl Rising Expo where girls and their families attend a day of high-energy workshops and inspiring presentations led by influential women from the community. LEAD also offers a summer Fashion Entrepreneurship Camp for girls to learn how to create, sell, and market their own fashion designs as well as walking on the runway at Winston-Salem Fashion Week.
LEAD has also launched LEAD Academy which partners with Winston-Salem Prep to offer literacy help to middle school girls with the goal of helping at least 90% of the girls read on or above grade level.
LEAD’s programs focus on their four core fundamentals, Awareness, Communications, Leadership, and Perspective. This year’s program theme is “Mind, Body, Spirit,” which will aim to help girls find safe and useful ways to combat stress and cope with these uncertain times, while accepting, and taking care of their bodies.
LEAD has made a difference in the lives of the girls that they serve and their families. 80% of LEAD girls self-reported feeling more confident in their communication skills while 94% of girls said they were more focused on setting and achieving goals for their futures after going through the program. LEAD girls have also reported feeling more connected to their families and communities and more positive about themselves since joining LEAD.
Programs are currently open to middle school girls; However, LEAD recently launched its High School Alumnae Network this past June, providing past LEAD girls with resources and opportunities such as financial literacy classes, scholarship applications, internship opportunities, resume and interview workshops as well as partnering with local organizations to create scholarship and employment opportunities specific to LEAD alumnae.
LEAD is currently open for enrollment for the upcoming school year. While it is uncertain what Winston-Salem public schools plan to do for the coming school year, LEAD is committed to the safety and well-being of girls and their families and are prepared to run LEAD programming virtually, ensuring that girls will continue to be supported by LEAD, even from home. The application to apply can be found here. Financial assistance is available.
At LEAD we believe it takes a village to provide our girls with the resources they need. While we cannot allow volunteers to work directly with the girls due to public health concerns, we are still accepting monetary donations and items off of our wish list! By supporting LEAD, you are joining a village of 298 partner organizations and almost 100 volunteers that are committed to serving our future female leaders. We hope you will join our village!