Leadership News

A lot has been happening organizationally at Girls’ LEAP! To start with, we are excited to announce the appointment of Alkia Powell as the Chair of LEAP’s Board of Directors. Alkia succeeds Cynthia Maltbie. Cynthia will continue in her role as Co-Executive Director in partnership with Lynn Masterman and will remain on the Board as a Director. Cynthia’s commitment to ending the cycle of violence for young women and gender expansive youth as well as her belief in the importance of racial, cultural and gender equity has provided a beacon for the Girls’ LEAP Board for more than a decade and we deeply appreciate her service.


Alkia, born and raised in Boston, has focused her career on civic engagement, from her work at UMass Boston’s Office of Government Relations and Public Affairs; to the Mayor’s Office of Fair Housing and Equity; and now as a Public Information Officer for Sheriff Steven Tomkins in the Office of External Affairs at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. Alkia has worked to strengthen community through volunteering as well, including with the Boston Branch of the NAACP, The Massachusetts Advocates for Children, The Greater Boston YMCA, VietAID Community Center, and Girls’ LEAP, as a Board Director for the past year. She lives, with her 16-year-old daughter, in Hyde Park. In her role as Board Chair, Alkia leads a highly engaged Board in providing strategic leadership, governance and fundraising support for Girls’ LEAP.


We are proud to share the news that our Program Director, Raquel Saenz, has accepted a position as Professor of Education at Southwestern University in Austin, Texas. Raquel has been on our team for 6 years, starting as a Lead Teacher shortly after she moved to Boston to pursue her doctorate; she took on the role of Program Director in September 2019. Raquel recruited and trained our teaching staff, developed new partnerships and coordinated the implementation of LEAP programs and workshops. When COVID hit, she led the team to pivot, with great success, to online training. She has developed new curriculum and training in anti-racist and culturally responsive teaching and gender inclusivity. She has inspired our students through social justice programming and Youth Participatory Action Research projects. We are grateful for her transformational leadership at LEAP, and we are delighted that she will continue to be part of LEAP as a member of our Board of Directors.


Fortunately, we’ve been able to identify a terrific successor to Raquel, Shalaya West, whose experience is wonderfully aligned with our work. Shalaya is a Dorchester, Ma native and knows first-hand the value of empowerment programming for youth through her engagement as a teen with GRLZradio. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Shalaya returned to GRLZradio as the Outreach Coordinator for 5 years. She has since held various roles surrounding the support of youth, college students and the Boston community with the Boston Public Health Commission, MIT’s Violence Prevention Program and most recently at Simmons University in the areas of violence prevention, education and student leadership. Across several roles, she has supported programs that promote healthy relationships, sexual consent, safe sex, personal safety, bystander intervention, risk reduction and leadership skills.


Please join us in thanking each of these outstanding women leaders for their commitment to disrupting the violence that surrounds all girls and gender-expansive youth.