On May 7, 2018, The New Orleans Links presented a day long college readiness conference to twenty-five 8th grade girls at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School. The Project L.E.A.D. Conference was the culmination of a year of activities presented by each facet of the New Orleans Chapter – Arts, Services to Youth, International Trends and Services, National Trends and Services and Health. The Chapter sought to give the students a head start in navigating the transition from high school to college life and to arm them with resources to better understand what is required of them in college and beyond.
Throughout the year, the students were afforded the opportunity to have hands-on exploration of colleges and the college experience, learn about applying to colleges, college testing, the types of colleges available to them, and the wide world of career options and opportunities both globally and domestic. The students heard from college professors and interacted with college students in international studies programs and young artists studying their craft. Utilizing a holistic approach, the Health facet provided the students with important information on the emotional and physical demands of colleges with information on nutrition and creating a balanced student/college environment for themselves.
The conference brought the year full-circle with a day of interactive workshops and panels focusing on what the students learned throughout the year and providing the students with additional real life skills to hit the ground running in their quest to discover where they fit into the college landscape. Some of the activities included a premier on passports, international travel and summer abroad programs, and a taste of foods from around the globe.
The students were introduced to Yoga as a mind/body approach to healthy living. Additionally, a savings and finance workshop was also incorporated into the program. Culminating the day, the students were encouraged to bring out their inner artist and participated in a T-shirt decorating activity to commemorate their 2017-2018 Project L.E.A.D. year.
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The title L.E.A.D. reflects The Links, Incorporated’s effort to close the academic achievement gap of middle school students (4th through 8th grade), while responding to their social-emotional needs, encouraging health and wellness, introducing STEM related education and career options, and improving their financial literacy. Instilling “High Expectations” in the youth participating in the program is a priority. Project L.E.A.D. participants are empowered to believe that they are capable of making significant contributions to society, and that The Links, Incorporated members, and society in general, also has high expectations of them.