Leaders for Change
Since 1996, Growth and Development Services (GDS) has been providing mental health, youth development, and intergenerational programs for marginalized inner-city youth and their families. Leaders For Change (LFC), is the Summer version of the year-long Excel program culminating in Excel Talks, offering a safe haven to build connections and emotional, social, educational, and career readiness support.
Leaders for Change 2020
“I found GDS to be a helpful resource at my time of need and I benefitted from the experience which helped me to stay on track, and I firmly believe that there are other kids in the neighborhood that are in need of a place like GDS to help keep them focused, while also giving them the tools to thrive in a ever changing neighborhood.”
– Markus Scott
How It Works
Leaders for Change provides mentorship, leadership development, counseling, job readiness, and youth advocacy, giving the youth the skill set needed to create self-sufficient, bright futures for themselves, their peers, and community.
Leaders for Change provides a needed platform for the youth to express issues, concerns, and proposed solutions for the current challenges they are facing. Together they create a safe space to develop tools to cope with social injustices which have been exacerbated in the past few years. Through youth-led sessions, participants support one another emotionally, socially, educationally, and in their careers. A team of experienced staff and talented volunteers guide them in workshops, while they have the freedom to be leaders for change. The youth are presented with tools to combat stressors by learning wellness practices such as mindfulness, meditation, and the importance of self care. These social and emotional tools empower the youth to be self-advocates and voices for their peers who may not be able to speak-up.
Leaders for Change is the Summer version of the Excel program that partners with other small and large nonprofits, community-based organizations, and local businesses. We partner with the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), and Boo from Moreofthisandlessofthat inspires the youth and volunteers through yoga and mindfulness. We provide arts, dance, and spoken word components to train youth in expression, and advocacy. Sheila from Toastmasters teaches youth communication, leadership, and public speaking. All of these components come together and have proven success in helping youth thrive at home, school, and work. As Edgar, a Youth Advocate, states “this program has empowered me to help others reach their potential by giving others the inspiration and positivity that they need.”
As a result of the success of this diverse and inclusive intergenerational initiative, GDS is launching a movement to replicate and train other community programs on this approach; empowering youth to make our community, city, and world a better place.
In Leaders for Change, youth participants engage in research to identify community issues they wish to highlight and address. The culmination of their efforts is showcased in our event called Excel Talks, where they present their findings to the community, raising awareness and inspiring action. The youth also provide thorough explanations, potential causes, and solutions.