Girls’ LEAP’s mission is to empower girls and young women to value and champion their own safety and well-being.
At the core, Girls’ LEAP is a direct service organization. However, after working extensively with girls directly for 14 years, Girls’ LEAP also has developed components to engage and impact partner agencies and to reach out to low-income communities about the need to promote girls’ safety. Girls’ LEAP is seen as a resource for those seeking to better understand the experiences girls have with violence, the impact it has on them, and ways to address it.
Many of the skills learned in Girls’ LEAP – communication, confidence, conflict resolution and self-advocacy – are also underpinnings of success in academic and professional pursuits.
“Because of Girls’ LEAP I learned that I have a voice and am a strong individual”
-Girl, age 16
Girls’ LEAP (Lifetime Empowerment & Awareness Program) began as a community response to a wave of sexual assaults against women and girls in Cambridge in 1995. LEAP was co-founded by Deborah Weaver, faculty member in the Department of Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics at Wellesley College and Peggy Barrett, Education Director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and former Director of the Women’s Center at Tufts University, both Cambridge residents at the time. Outraged by the lack of public warnings from police about the assaults, Deborah and Peggy committed themselves to helping protect others. Discovering that girls ages 10-14 were most at risk for sexual assault and exploitation, and that there was no programming available to teach young girls how to protect themselves, the two women founded Girls’ LEAP.
After extensive research into the types of programs that worked and why, the curriculum for Girls’ LEAP was carefully constructed to include role playing and intergenerational teaching teams and self-directed scenarios. Girls’ LEAP delivered its first programs in 1997 and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2000. Since then, the overarching goal has been to provide girls and young women with the tools to protect and advocate for themselves in a variety of contexts by developing their self-confidence and courage.
To date, Girls’ LEAP has served over 7,000 girls and young women in Greater Boston neighborhoods, including some of the most violent and crime ridden areas. Girls’ LEAP programs are hosted at community based organizations, after-school programs and community centers, and serve a diverse population. Through these partnerships Girls’ LEAP has developed strong relationships and a stellar reputation as a reputable, professional organization that provides a transformative experience for girls.