LEAD program fosters leadership, community involvement

Published 6:55 am Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Community improvements are being made by exceptional Calcasieu Parish school district students through the LEAD program housed at Sulphur High School and Washington-Marion High School.

This program was developed in tandem with Tellurian – a natural gas company based out of Houston – in 2017 as a part of the company’s community investment commitment.

LEAD, which stands for Leadership, Enrichment and Development, first launched at Sulphur High. After its success, the decision was made to expand the program to Washington-Marion in 2018.

The program identifies and cultivates leadership skills in the upcoming generation through student-led community projects and initiatives.

Email newsletter signup

“Tellurian’s LEAD program has significantly increased access to learning opportunities while promoting awareness of the challenges facing our community,” said Tyrella Bushnell, Sulphur LEAD Teacher. “This has helped my students develop their leadership style, both inside and outside of the classroom, and learn about the importance of community involvement. This is crucial in preparing them for a successful future.”

To be selected for the LEAD program, students have to independently complete the competitive application process. After being selected, the students are able to join their school’s Southwest Louisiana LEAD Councils.

Each council is given a $20,000 grant from Tellurian with one rule: do good in the community.

To determine how they will utilize their grant, council members consult local businesses, nonprofits and elected leaders to identify pressing needs in the community to develop their improvement projects around.

Sulphur High’s LEAD Council decided to work with the St. Nicholas Center. Bushnell explained that her students chose to support the St. Nicholas Center to “improve the lives of school aged children struggling with learning difficulties.”

The students decided to use their grant money to provide scholarships and equipment for the St. Nicolas’ new program STEPS. This program will offer aid to children with their motor, cognitive and behavioral skills, specifically children that have not been officially diagnosed with autism, but exhibit symptoms.

The Sulphur LEAD Council will provide aid to help families participating in the STEPS program. They will be distributing six scholarships worth $2,400 each.

The remaining $5,600 will be used to purchase equipment for the STEPS program.

The students in Washington-Marion’s LEAD council decided to focus on bringing aid to the economically disadvantaged.

“Our students chose to focus their project on the needs of homeless individuals in our community and felt the best way to support this growing issue was by providing support to Abraham’s Tent,” said Corry Allen, Washington- Marion LEAD teacher.

They partnered with Abraham’s Tent – a local organization that provides food for those in need – to purchase new equipment for their kitchen. They have spent $17,000 of their $20,000 grant to purchase a commercial grade, single door fridge and a double door freezer for Abraham’s Tent.

They have also used funds to purchase personal items for “blessings bags,” which they handed out themselves while volunteering at Abraham’s Tent.

While working to dissolve the inaccurate stigmas surrounding those that are homeless, the students in Washington-Marion’s LEAD program are gaining vital leadership skills, such as team collaboration, goal setting and project management skills, said Allen.

Currently, the LEAD council and Allen are working to identify additional ways in which they can provide aid.