Hi, my name is Rebecca McLemore and I am a LEAP graduate, Class 15. I was released from prison on April 7, 2018 and have worked for the Dragonfly Thrift Boutique ever since. I recently became Assistant Store Manager. I am so grateful to be apart of this organization. They have changed my life completely. I have so much love and support from everyone involved. Everyday I am learning and will continue to grow in all areas of my life because of the love and support. I now have the tools to continue in my recovery as well as I truly believe in myself. I can never repay what LEAP has done for me. I can only prove in my day to day actions how much this program actually works. I have a lot of love for all the members. Thanks..... Rebecca McLemore
If you were to meet any of the LEAP graduates today - they are chefs, event managers, retail managers, board members, entrepreneurs. They are your neighbors.
Until you start speaking to them in depth, you would not know that they were formerly incarcerated women who often landed in prison after years of trying to escape abuse and trauma. For most incarcerated women, the recidivism rate is 75% (depending on the study). That is not surprising when at most, they receive $50 and a one way bus ticket to restart their lives after years of incarceration and no support system outside the prison walls.
This is where LEAP comes in. Unlike similar programs I have seen around the country trying to address this issue, LEAP is unique in that they combine nearly 300 hours of entrepreneur, life skills and therapy in prison for their candidates. Once released, their post prison programs kick in, that offer mentors and support outside the prison wall to address the most difficult issues for rebuilding lives: a place to live, a flexible job as they get on their feet, mentors to guide each client to success, and partnerships with other agencies to deliver wrap around services for success, mental health care and internships.
Other programs address one or two of these services with varying degrees of success. LEAP offers all and their recidivism rate is 5%. The women who graduate from LEAP show unbelievable strength, grit and hope to rebuild their lives and become contributing members of society.
Taxpayers can choose to pay for billions in the current prison system, or they can look to support a less costly avenue into prison reform that is far more effective. These women will all be released from prison one day. They will become your neighbors. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could support all of them to regain their dignity, heal them from trauma and give them the opportunity to be the neighbors you want? LEAP does this.
If you want to know the difference LEAP makes in the lives of formerly incarcerated women, just talk to the ladies who have graduated from the program. Apart from the hours of in prison education, I think it is the exposure to different people and opportunities that really sets this organization apart. LEAP has a mentorship program after the women get out of prison wherein professional woman from the community work with LEAP students. They go to the ballet, find out about internships, get book recommendations, do yoga, go to meditation, talk about clothes and how to dress, etc. They establish a relationship and it is the relationship, the caring and accountability, that seems to make the difference. LEAP also works with the women post release to help secure housing, employment, clothing, cell phones and other necessities. The combination of education and the social and interpersonal skills the women are exposed to really increases the likelihood they will find a job and not only stay out of prison, but build a beautiful life for themselves.
Within the last year, LEAP opened the Dragonfly Thrift Boutique, where they provide a comprehensive six month paid retail internship. The women who work at the store are very open about what a difference the program has made in their lives. I think this video provides an excellent picture of LEAP:
Transitioning out of Prison, think about that... LEAP helps women in the most basic ways. Uplifting each individual’s self-esteem with a proven system.
Any woman is eligible but has to commit to the Program. The ladies find employment and their own self-worth. LEAP is doing amazing work in our community for women who deserve a break and shed the stigma that is incarceration. Together with Barry University the women learn life skills for employability. LEAP is a safety net and a trampoline at the same time. In no time the women are ready to be on their own! It’s a very powerful Program that’s making a real difference.
I first encountered LEAP because of their dynamic executive and board leadership. I was impressed by their passion, enthusiasm and sense of purpose. Then, I met the clients and I became increasingly impressed with LEAP. I joined their Board because I truly believe in the mission, and the organization. We are committed to help women involved with the criminal justice system to overcome their challenges and thrive. I would say that we are about second chances, but the truth is, many of our ladies never had a fair first chance.