LEAP for Girls

Love Heals is training the next generation of community educators and activists through the Leadership Empowerment and Awareness Program (LEAP) for Girls. LEAP for Girls was launched in 2006 in response to then-increasing rates of HIV infection among young women of color in New York City.

Created for and in partnership with young women of color, the program addresses the broad range of factors that impede their ability to make healthy choices. LEAP for Girls targets neighborhoods in East Harlem, the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn that have felt the greatest impact from the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Partnering with schools and community-based organizations, LEAP for Girls gives young women aged 12 to 18 the tools to protect themselves from HIV infection and to become effective advocates with their peers and within their communities.

Participants have the opportunity to:

  1. Engage in twelve training sessions and two to three follow-up sessions facilitated by experienced health educators.
  2. Study human anatomy and reproductive health issues, including HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections.
  3. Improve their communication, public speaking and decision-making skills.
  4. Build self-esteem and strategies for recognizing and challenging bias.
  5. Develop a sense of sisterhood and of their own power as leaders.
  6. Hear HIV-positive women’s personal stories.
  7. Learn about advocacy and community service.
  8. Tour a local, youth-friendly health clinic.
  9. Take home a training manual for continued study.
  10. Design and implement an HIV/AIDS education and awareness project in their own communities.
  11. Attend a graduation ceremony with family members.

In addition, parents and guardians of LEAP for Girls participants have the opportunity to attend a workshop on parent-child connectedness. They also receive a listing of local resources and a copy of Talking With Your Daughter About Sex & HIV Prevention.

Ultimately, participants take the knowledge and skills they develop through LEAP for Girls into their adult lives. Empowered with this newfound knowledge, they continue to expand and share it with their peers, family members and respective communities.

Young women who complete LEAP for Girls become part of the LEAP for Girls Alumnae Program.

Since its inception, LEAP for Girls has successfully completed 40 partnerships with individual schools and community groups, graduating a total of 430 peer educators who have reached more than 16,875 community members through their community action projects, which have included health fairs, public service announcements, newsletters, street outreach campaigns and in-class trainings for younger students.

Love Heals taught me to embrace empowerment and become more aware of my sexual being. Wish I could do it all over again.

– LEAP alumna

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