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This summer, two Young Playwrights students had the fantastic opportunity to travel to California to participate in The LEAP Foundation conferences.
The LEAP Foundation, Inc. (“LEAP”) was formed in 2008 as a California not-for-profit corporation. LEAPsponsors six-day conferences designed to teach leadership skills to participating students, aged 15 to 24, in small groups under the guidance of the conference faculty and individual coaches.
LEAP encourages students to take great strides toward achieving their dreams and to “LEAP” ahead in life – academically, professionally and personally – in ways they may not have even been able to foresee.
Young Playwrights’ students are able to go thanks to the Matt Stuski Scholarship, which was started in memory of Board Member Nancy Stuski’s son, Matt, who was close friends with LEAP founder, Tony Granados.
Youth Council Member Gina Dukes reflected upon her experience:
Why attending Leap was the best choice I made this summer
When I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport and was greeted by an overly animated and excited girl in a green shirt that read ‘Leap’, I then started to question just what was I getting myself into. Prior to flying to LA, I had a vague idea of what the Leap conference would be like. I knew that it would involve seminars on leadership and how to achieve the career and academic success you dream of, and because I had attended similar conferences in the past, I was expecting a regurgitation of information that I had already learned. What I didn’t expect was to be deeply moved, inspired and changed by the program. The one thing that had really struck me was the immense sense of positivity and sincere appreciation everyone emulated and was encouraged to feel. We were given ‘I appreciate’ notes, so that we could write out thoughtful thanks to anyone we chose in the program. I felt like a kid receiving little pieces of sweet candy, except every note was a sweet heartfelt thank you note from teammates, random Leapers, and coaches. In addition to the notes, every day, even multiple times a day, we were instructed to say aloud an affirmation that goes sorta like, “I AM A 10! I WALK LIKE A 10! I TALK LIKE A 10! I DO WHAT I OUGHTA DO WHEN I OUGHTA DO IT WITH NOOO DEBATE!”(I’m writing in all caps to express just how much enthusiasm we put into shouting this mantra daily) At first it felt silly, but after a while I would wake up feeling like a 10 and felt more eager to approach the day and soak in everything the program had to offer. Essentially, what Leap had shown me is that fundamentally, your attitude and the way you approach life by the thoughts you think about yourself and others, are what shapes your reality and your relationships. Attitude is key and to succeed you must practice positivity.
Furthermore, every day I was audience to some of the nation’s brightest and highly regarded motivational speakers from various topics such as goal setting, academic success, how to ace a job interview, public speaking and so much more. At the end of the program I even got a chance to speak with distinguished professionals from just about any field, in an opportunity to practice identifying potential mentors, as well as gain advice and wisdom from those who had extensive experience. Throughout the program I was able to build relationships with my 9 teammates and awesome coach and junior couch who were great at breaking down the Leap principles and being real life examples of how applying the knowledge we receive will actually give us the results we want. I’ve made tons of friends with people as close as California, to as far as South Africa and even Australia! The “Leap Idol” talent show was also an amazing experience where I got the chance to perform some of my spokenword poetry in front of the entire program. Winning the title of “Best spokenwordpoet” and getting admiration from my peers was a satisfying experience that reminded my of why I should never neglect my talent in writing. The Leap program concluded on a high note with a fun dance party and tender goodbyes. Yet even though the program has ended for the summer, I’ve still been able to maintain my relationships with fellow Leapers and be reminded to live a “10 Eagle Life”, through the use of our very active Facebook group. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to attend Leap and only wish that everyone could have the chance to participate in such an awesome program.