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Learning Enrichment Activities Program (LEAP)
The Learning Enrichment Activities Program (LEAP) in Minnesota involves two diverse groups of students: juvenile offenders and developmentally delayed children. Although these two groups may seem very different, they really are very much alike. Both groups of individuals are living away from home, do not have many visits from family or friends, are often lonely, and want someone to care about them and help them feel accepted and special.
LEAP is funded by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education. The main focus of the grant is to provide activities that enhance the reading and mathematics skills of the residents of the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Red Wing. Staff at the facility decided to include a service-learning component and immediately set out to find a partner that could benefit from the services of their residents. The Vasa Children's Home, also located in Red Wing, was a perfect match for the program.
Residents from the correctional facility visit the Vasa Children's Home weekly. They play board games with the children, help them with arts and crafts projects, participate in team sports, have parties, and become friends. The goals of this community service activity are to help the residents at the correctional facility interact with others to develop social skills, experience empathy for others, learn to organize and participate in recreational activities, and give back to the community. Goals for the Vasa residents include going outside their comfort zones and participating in new activities.
LEAP has been in operation for two years and involves six to 10 participants between the ages of 16 and 18. When the LEAP participants build relationships with those less fortunate than themselves, they often learn new cognitive skills, feelings, and behaviors that they that will carry with them to the community and their interactions with others.