Youth Counseling Online Becomes a Lifeline

Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership, Inc. (LEAP) counselors help young people stay engaged during the pandemic.

LEAP Junior Counselor Khalid Washington. Photo Credit: New Haven Independent

LEAP program supports families and engages youth

Since moving online, counselors with the youth organization Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership, Inc. (LEAP) are sometimes the only people that their young mentees have to turn to for help with a school assignment or support with a problem.

Many of the parents in the 300 households LEAP is serving are classified as essential workers and unavailable during the day. LEAP has continued to support their children by making sure the families have the technology for the children to continue learning and receiving tutoring and support from the older mentors.

The counselors are also an important way that LEAP checks in on families to see what they need. The agency is distributing grocery gift cards and Chromebook to many of its families.

"I have been moved by how our full time and youth staff have completely revamped our organization," said Executive Director Henry Fernandez. "Sixteen and seventeen year olds are providing homework help to younger children over Zoom. Mask wearing staff members are dropping computers off at families' homes so kids can participate in LEAP and school online. Donors have stepped up so we can provide food to hungry members of our community."

The act of employing counselors, themselves high school and college students, is itself part of LEAP’s emergency response. Some counselors are now the primary earners in their households, and are now earning more money for their increased workload. This cash support is especially important in this crisis so that their families do not reach the point of needing emergency food and rent assistance.

"Our big LEAP family embodies Dr. King's proclamation that we should measure people not by where they stand in times of comfort and convenience but by where they stand in times of challenge and controversy," said Fernandez.

LEAP received $30,000 grant from the Greater New Haven COVID-19 Community Fund to support $30,000 to support emergency food and rental assistance for at-risk New Haven families, as well as to cover limited additional costs associated with expanded outreach and case management.