The LEAD Program began in the Spring of 2014 guided by the mission to tackle educational inequity in our nation. The education-focused program first enlisted 16 students in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. All of the students, who were at risk of being held behind a grade level, were transported from their local public school after school to a cheerful, but sparsely decorated meeting space located in the basement of a pediatrician’s office.
While our space was modest, our vision was resolute: the goal was to provide engaging, academic work under the supervision of an experienced, classroom teacher to bring students back to grade level and ensure that they were able to be promoted to the next grade at the end of the school year along with their classmates.
With some proper planning, foresight, and grit, our teachers were able to address the learning gaps of the students and helped them in the core areas of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. Extra teaching and tutoring were given. Worksheets were distributed. Stickers and gold stars were freely handed out for excellent work. And at the end of the year we made a difference: all but one student was promoted to the next grade.
The principal of the students’ school remarked that she observed a perceptible difference in the kids upon joining LEAD. The students were exhibiting more confidence and intellectual rigor in the classroom. She was confident that the students’ needs were being addressed. Thus, she was confident in making the decision herself to promote the students. She immediately joined our board the following school year.
At the onset of the following school year, our program was accepted into a local church – St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church – where we were able to expand our reach and further our mission. We grew from a program serving 1st and 2nd graders at a single public school in our first year to a full-sized Kindergarten through 5th grade program now serving 3 public elementary schools in the neighborhood. Positive word-of-mouth has spread in the community, and we are now one of the biggest afterschool programs in the communities that we serve.
Just this past year, we recently launched our second site in Flushing, Queens – serving students from Kindergarten through 6th grade.
As our program embarks on its 5th year anniversary, we have a vision of expanding our impact and presence across all 5 boroughs. Providing educational access and equity to our youth is our work and we welcome everyone to join us in shaping the future trajectory of our nation’s youth.