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Ladies Empowerment Action Program (L.E.A.P.)

 Posted by Bari Schanerman

 Friday December 1, 2017

  LEAP Blog

We woke up very early to make the drive to the Homestead Correction Institution to visit the women in the Ladies Empowerment Action Program, (L.E.A.P.), to share Part 2 of our Choose Your Attitude discussion. "The program is designed to stimulate and empower incarcerated women to make positive life changes through a multi-disciplinary approach including entrepreneurship training, education and mentorship."

We arrived at 9:00, ready to go, only to be delayed when the guards had to check on some of our credentials and since the class ends at 11:00, each minute counts. I have been going to the prison since the fall of 2014 about 6 times a year and have learned that patience is a virtue when getting through the security protocol to get to the classroom or one of the graduation ceremonies. For the last year and a half, Angie, my business partner, has been accompanying me after hearing me speak about the experience.

Each time we leave the prison we walk out on air talking about the morning with the women. They are so eager to learn, share and grow and want to know when we will be back. We have witnessed women that normally keep to themselves open up to connect and move past their discomfort with their classmates, as well as others that challenge their classmates' answers to some of our questions. There are tears and laughter during the sessions, all part of the process of learning and seeing new possibilities.

Working with the women in L.E.A.P. is so rewarding and you can't help becoming a cheerleader for them to succeed in their remaining time in prison as well as when they get released. They have instructors, mentors, and other volunteers who are all part of the program that lasts one year with graduation at the end.

The following day, I visited the Center for Social Change in Coral Gables where some of the graduates of the L.E.A.P. work. The Center has been extremely supportive of the organization, and helping them with their dreams of having a place for the women to live when they are released and a place for them to work, to continue to grow, and practice what they learned while in prison. The Founders, Board members, volunteers, and many others all work together to help program succeed. For me, watching the evolution of the organization, the leadership and the participants has been a joy.

The Center hosted a holiday bazaar with gifts to buy from a variety of vendors, with a portion of the sales going to the Center. I wanted to support the Center, as well as L.E.A.P. as they both are doing amazing work. L.E.A.P. had a table at the event where they sold Dragonfly key chains and a variety of other items. L.E.A.P. is opening a thrift shop called Dragonfly Thrift Boutique to give the women a place to work, to continue learning, to grow and to provide resources for the program. For me, it is always so nice to see some of the L.E.A.P. graduates at the Center or on the other side after prison and I look forward to working with them at the Thrift shop as well.

To cap off two days of L.E.A.P. being front and center in my life, on Sunday morning, I was reading the Miami Herald and was so excited to
see the cover story of the Neighbors section which had an amazing picture of two graduates of the program and the following title:

"Leaping into a new life"

"Two Miami nonprofits – LEAP and Riverside House – are helping inmates rebuild their lives once they leave prison."

Leaping into a new life

Watching a non-profit grow, engage the community, as well as volunteers is especially rewarding to me. I did a lot of volunteer work before going to
school to become a coach and the primary driving force for me was to improve the lack of alignment that I witnessed in many non-profit organizations between the mission, values, leadership and volunteers. Working with organizations, such as L.E.A.P. where the mission, and leadership are focused on the big picture and the possibilities available from a we centric perspective where the egos are in the background is truly a pleasure.

If you want to know more about L.E.A.P., please let me know.