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Students in U-46 Enrichment Program Spread Kindness

Dec. 6, 2021 

A group of School District U-46 students took the recent World Kindness Day to heart and spread a bit of their own artistic kindness to some happily surprised shoppers.

Girls from the Living Elegantly, Ambitiously, and Dauntlessly (LEAD) U-46 enrichment program created greeting cards that were handed out to random shoppers at several grocery stores in the Elgin area.

“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. 

Kindness notes created by students in LEAD

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.

Students in the LEAD program work on a puzzle together

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. 

For more information on LEAD, please contact Jocelyn Ashford Yarbrough at

Students in LEAD work on a puzzle on a table together