“The girls planted seeds of kindness with those beautiful notes that were filled with warmth,” said Lisa Jackson, Director of Equity and Inclusion for U-46.
The LEAD program focuses on supporting girls of African-American heritage, but all girls in 5th through 8th grades in U-46 are welcome to join.
LEAD, formed in 2014, now has 135 participants from eight schools, said Jocelyn Ashford-Yarbrough, Paraeducator for Curriculum and Instruction at Ronald D. O’Neal Elementary School, and co-leader of LEAD. Janie McCutchen, a Parent Outreach Worker for Curriculum and Instruction at Larsen Middle School, serves as a fellow U-46 group leader, while Mary Harrison serves as a co-leader from the community.
LEAD is “a wonderful enrichment program that helps the girls to build their confidence and self-esteem,” Jackson said.
LEAD provides a wide variety of activities. The girls work on service projects together. They put puzzles together. And they recently attended a play at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. At the end of the 2021-2022 school year, there will be a LEAD conference with guest speakers.
Cultural awareness is a key aspect of the group, as the girls learn to respect their own heritage, and the heritage of others, Ashford-Yarbrough said.
"It’s an appreciation for each other, and an appreciation for our differences,” she said.