L.E.A.D. provides structure for Atlanta’s Black youth during pandemic

A group of L.E.A.D. ambassadors stand with co-founder C.J. Stewart and Marin Kraushaar, executive director of the Georgia's Own Foundation. Courtesy of L.E.A.D.
A group of L.E.A.D. ambassadors stand with co-founder C.J. Stewart and Marin Kraushaar, executive director of the Georgia's Own Foundation. Courtesy of L.E.A.D.

When the coronavirus pandemic made in-person gatherings unsafe in early 2020, many groups had to pause to figure out how to proceed with day-to-day life in a safe way. L.E.A.D., a sports-based youth development organization that uses baseball to teach Black boys how to overcome crime, poverty and racism, had to close temporarily, but then they reopened in June, making the changes necessary to provide their ambassadors (program participants) with the support they need without putting them at undue risk.

“When COVID hit, we had to completely flip our programming model, focusing mostly on outreach with limited direct service programming. It was all about making sure our boys and their families were as stable as possible as we all figured our way through this pandemic,” said Kelli Stewart, the co-founder and executive director of L.E.A.D.

The program was based in Washington High School, but with school closures last year, L.E.A.D. had no way to remain open. Funding from Georgia’s Own Foundation allowed the opening of the L.E.A.D. Center For Youth, located at the MET Atlanta in Atlanta’s Historic West End.

“It gave us a way to continue serving our youth while schools were closed, and our ambassadors needed a safe haven to ensure they stayed on the right track,” said Stewart.

L.E.A.D., which serves up to 350 boys annually, restructured practices to decrease physical contact between participants and increased safety and sanitation practices.

“The community stepped up and helped us get the PPE we needed, along with additional equipment and tools to help us structure practices differently. In addition to providing essential PPE, we increased our number of training stations to decrease the number of ambassadors at each station and provided more training sessions to reduce capacity at practice.”

L.E.A.D.’s motto is “we scout the counted out,” because it works primarily with boys from low-income households in Atlanta who are underperforming academically and behaviorally.

“We provide our ambassadors with the mentorship and guidance they need – along with empowerment, authority and responsibility – to use what we teach to build their skill set for life.” said Stewart.

Who’s helping?

L.E.A.D.

Services: L.E.A.D. uses baseball to help Black boys learn how to overcome crime, poverty and racism.

Where to donate: To donate, please go to www.lead2legacy.org and click the donate link at the top of the page.

How to get involved: Parents of boys in 6th-12th grades in Atlanta Public Schools who are interested in L.E.A.D.’s program can reach out at 404-662-2538 or email info@lead2legacy.org.

If you are involved in or know of an organization working to bring relief to the Atlanta community during the coronavirus pandemic OR you are with an organization with supplies that you don’t know where to donate, please email us at Shannon.n.Dominy@gmail.com.

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