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LEAD program students interact with shoppers

By Seth Hancock
  A group of students from School District U-46 spread kindness to unsuspecting shoppers.
  For World Kindness Day on Nov. 13, the students created greeting cards and went to grocery stores in the U-46 area to give them to random shoppers, according to a Dec. 6 district press release.
  “The girls planted seeds of kindness with those beautiful notes that were filled with warmth,” Lisa Jackson, director of equity and inclusion, said for the press release.
  The students are part of the Living Elegantly, Ambitiously, and Dauntlessly (LEAD), which is an enrichment program for girls.
  Jackson called LEAD “a wonderful enrichment program that helps the girls to build their confidence and self-esteem.”
  According to the district’s LEAD webpage, the program began at Ellis Middle School in Elgin in 2014 but has expanded to five middle and three elementary schools since then. There were 150 students in the program in 2019-2020.
  The page states that LEAD is “centered around supporting and mentoring [fifth through eighth grade girls].” It is focused on “African American heritage, however, all girls are welcome,” and it “aims to help girls develop their self-esteem, cultural awareness, leadership, and conflict resolution skills.”
  Jocelyn Ashford-Yarbrough, a district paraeducator and co-leader of LEAD, said the program has 135 students this year at eight schools.
  “LEAD provides a wide variety of activities,” the press release stated. “The girls work on service projects together. They put puzzles together. And they recently attended a play at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. At the end of the 2021-2022 school year, there will be a LEAD conference with guest speakers.”

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