Applications for LEAP cohort 10 are now open here! For over 10 years, the Leadership Education and Advancement for Professionals (LEAP) Project has created space for over 100 advocate-leaders and women of color in leadership positions to build their executive-level skills, “pay it forward” to leaders of color in their community, and ultimately, strategize toward equitable and inclusive workplace cultures, service provision, and education to communities of color across the United States and Territories. The project is designed to be an interactive distance learning and comprehensive training and cohort experience for leaders of color in the field to end gender-based violence. We reached out to past LEAP fellows and here is what they have to say. Let’s hear from Sarayfah Bolling from Callisto and part of cohort 9 shared:
“I have been able to learn so much from the program in how to be a better leader and ultimately the skills necessary to step into an elevated role as an VP, ED, and/or CEO. Specifically, learning the fundamentals of finance, Human Resources, and working with Boards are core competencies necessary for elevating to these roles and there is often not an opportunity to learn those skills at a management role.”
Sarayfah continues on to share how the group has contributed to her growth:
“Being a part of this group has not only expanded my knowledge in my current and future roles, but most importantly, provided a space to cultivate key relationships across the movement to ensure that my work is intersectional, inclusive, and effective. You would be amazed at the various ways that organizations are solving the issue of sexual and interpersonal violence. This space highlights the need and what is possible to solve the problem.”
The project was established in 2012 out of a need to address the isolation and lack of resources that women of color often experience on their way to executive-level leadership, concomitant with the disproportionate lack of women of color executive leaders in the field. In fact, Brittany Clayborne from The Haven Shelter & Services and a part of cohort 9 shared:
“I entered my current position relatively new and felt that I lacked many of the skills needed to excel at it. Oftentimes, I would be teaching myself. As a black woman, I always felt the extra pressure to be ‘good’ at my job and I didn’t have many professional contacts that identified as women of color so this program was exceedingly helpful. My coach was great and the fellows have been amazing!”
Unfortunately, the sentiment that Black women and women of color “must work harder to succeed” in the field has been internalized by many, despite being central to the historical and contemporary development of the movement to end gender-based violence. This is why ValorUS® established the (LEAP) Project in 2012 with the Women of Color Network. These barriers to professional growth and achievement in executive leadership positions lead to the unfortunate underrepresentation of women of color executive leaders in the field and ultimately, impedes our ability to provide culturally specific services and education, and the ability to grow thriving, violence free communities and organizations rooted in values that uplift and support survivors from all communities and backgrounds.
Despite the obstacles faced by leaders of color, innovative ideas and the desire for positive change abounds. Joella Montoya from Community Against Violence and a part of cohort 9 expressed, “LEAP has helped me put words to how I want to lead from my values and ways on how to implement that type of leadership.” Many of the previous LEAP leaders are working to implement innovative, social justice oriented ideas in the field, like reimagining funding opportunities outside of traditional structures, opportunities to support harm-doers in changing behavior and understanding accountability, and developing culturally responsive services and education for survivors of gender-based violence.
Apply today and join a network of women and people of color across the United States. The deadline for applications is November 3rd, 2023, 11:59 pm PDT. Click here to learn more about the LEAP project and how to apply.
Register here for an informational session on October 5th, 2023, 9:00 – 10:00 am PT / 12:00 -1:00 pm ET and learn more about LEAP.
This project is supported by Grant No 2020-TA-AX-K022 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.