Girls’ LEAP’s vision is a world where all girls and gender expansive youth grow into powerful, capable adults realizing the power of their aspirations.
To disrupt the violence that surrounds all girls and gender expansive youth by amplifying their voices, emboldening their courage, and imparting critical life and self-defense skills so they can take on challenges with confidence.
Girls' LEAP interrupts the cycle of violence by empowering all girls and gender expansive youth to value and champion their own safety and well-being. We teach youth that they have a right to be safe and how to defend themselves when necessary. We believe all girls and gender expansive youth deserve to grow up safe and free from violence – and that empowerment is violence prevention. Our goal is to provide girls with the tools and skills to keep themselves safe, both emotionally and physically. We partner with local schools and community centers to deliver empowerment and self-defense services to girls aged 8-18 in Greater Boston.
We believe in the extraordinary potential of young women
We believe in choice, consent, and emotional resilience
We create a culture that values girls and builds confidence
We are accountable to the girls we serve and to their communities
Girls’ LEAP began as a community response to a wave of assaults against women and girls in Cambridge in the 1990s. Determining that there were no resources available to protect young girls, two local women, Deborah Weaver and Peggy Barrett, co-founded Girls' LEAP. After extensive program research, our specialized & research-based curriculum was carefully constructed to meet the physical and socio-emotional needs of girls.
Girls’ LEAP delivered its first programs in 1997 and incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit in 2000. In 2008, we were the recipient of the Social Innovator award by Root Cause, which recognized the success of our innovative curriculum. In June 2011, we moved to Dorchester to be located in the neighborhoods where youth are most in need of our services and where we deliver most of our programs.
Girls' LEAP's curriculum has continually been expanded and updated to include topics such as boundary setting, healthy relationships, cyber-bullying and most recently, mental health and self-care support. Girls' LEAP now offers 5 programs including a powerful, year-round part-time employment program for Teen Mentors that includes training and leadership opportunities in our core physical self-defense and socio-emotional programming, as well as academic support, social and racial justice curriculum, and a women of color Speaker Series.
In 2020, Girls' LEAP clarified in our mission and vision that we support all girls, youth who identify as girls, and gender expansive youth ages 8-18. Our staff training has been expanded to include culturally relevant and anti-racist teaching methods as well as gender inclusivity. Currently, 90% of participants identify as persons of color including 44% Black, 26% Latinx, 16% Multi-Racial, and 4% Asian with 10% White and 85% of programs are delivered at inner-city Boston program sites: Dorchester, Roxbury, South Boston, Chinatown, Mission Hill, and Jamaica Plain. Remaining programs serve Cambridge and Brookline.
There continues to be a pressing need for our programs, as the youth we serve are still growing up in a world characterized by high rates of violence. And as Senator Elizabeth Warren said: "The work that Girls’ LEAP is doing is vitally important...teaching girls to physically defend themselves – that’s powerful...but what is even more powerful is the confidence these girls gain by learning that their voices and their minds are the most important tools they have to change the lives of themselves and those around them.”
Girls' LEAP continues forward with the vision of a world where all girls and gender expansive youth grow into powerful, capable adults realizing the power of their aspirations.