Leadership Education And Development (LEAD) is an after-school mentorship program for African-American females in grades 6 through 12, developed and run by RICBW. Its purpose is to provide guidance and instruction to adolescent girls to assist them socially, emotionally, intellectually, and culturally to become strong, successful women.

LEAD works to develop and foster leadership capabilities in Black girls and young women by providing them with role models, educational enrichment activities, employment skills, work experience, public speaking opportunities, and other activities designed to enhance their self-esteem and prepare them for leadership roles in the community.

Young Black women often face choices and complicated circumstances that can significantly affect their future. LEAD gives them the skills, knowledge, and self-confidence to make the positive choices that can have an impact on generations of Black men and women to come.

Growth and Reach

During the program’s first four years, our mentors focused on working with high school students. In 2005, we began our LEAD middle school program with 18 girls, mostly from inner-city Providence schools. Each year since then we have accepted approximately 30-50 high school and middle school girls into the program.

Students working with LEAD are given the opportunity to remain in the program each year. Participating middle school students have priority access to the high school program when they enter 9th grade. The intention is to begin mentoring girls in middle school and continue providing guidance through high school graduation. Since its inception in 2001, the LEAD program has mentored more than 200 girls and young women.

Program Components

LEAD runs from October through April of each year. Participants meet once a week at Central High School in Providence. All program participants eat dinner together and then separate into small groups of 7–10 students, led by 2 adult mentors. The groups participate in targeted discussions, seminars, and activities that promote character building, cultural pride, goal setting, academic excellence, advocacy, and practical life skills.

In addition to regularly scheduled meetings, all participants have the opportunity to attend cultural and other field trips. Cultural events have included a trip to New York City to see The Color Purple and The Heights on Broadway; performances at local venues such as the Providence Performing Arts Center, Trinity Rep, and Providence Black Rep; a visit to Langston Hughes Black Nativity in Boston; and trips to the Pequot Museum and the Bodies Revealed Exhibit in Connecticut.

Other trips and activities focus on education, health, and civic skill building. For example, high school participants have traveled to Washington, DC, for activities including tours of Howard University, the Smithsonian Museum, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol, as well as a meeting with Senator Jack Reed.

Become a mentor, or refer a young woman who may benefit from participating as a mentee.