Youth empowerment is a very important initiative that will shape the tomorrow of the present generation. Preparing young people to lead with integrity, strength, and a strategic mind is a worthy investment for the future. REAP Inc., a year-round multicultural youth leadership program committed to empowering the next wave of leaders, is doing its part to ensure that the future is led by worthy individuals.
The leadership program is uniquely designed to develop the skills of students in grades 3 to 12, who represent the most marginalized groups in the population as well. The students are empowered to be global leaders through civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and cooperative management or conflict resolution. Interestingly, REAP has managed to empower more than 1,000 students each year.
In order to help students to realize their full leadership potential, REAP relies heavily on donor contributions. Donations are the lifeblood of the organization, allowing it to maintain, develop, and strengthen the quality of the online offerings.
REAP was founded by Levell Thomas and Mark Jackson, longtime friends who went to Portland public schools together. They established REAP in 2001, confident that Portland is home to very talented young people who are motivated to make a difference in the world. Right from the very beginning, the two knew how to adapt successfully. They invested in worthwhile programs that they believe will impact the lives of students significantly. They are both quite skilled when it comes to building networks composed of people in business, government, and the non-profit sector.
They also made sure that the company is founded on four key goals: elevate youth voices, empower student leaders with a global mindset, expand student innovation toward entrepreneurship, and engage students in cooperative management. These approaches, when learned early in life, can help build a strong future. And building a strong future is of utmost importance in raising dynamic and brave leaders. Thomas and Jackson see themselves as catalysts for much-needed change in the world today.
Just like many organizations all over the world, REAP was not spared from the effects of the pandemic. If anything, however, these challenges simply magnified pressing needs that have been around for quite some time now. Ultimately, the founders’ realizations led her to conclude that more and more empowered leaders are needed.
“The past few years have been filled with many challenges. A global pandemic has highlighted systemic racism, poverty, inequity, and social justice. There’s much work to be done, and much of it, moving forward now they can make a difference and contribute to the world-class leadership programming,” they explained.
Thomas and Jackson have a great vision for REAP in the coming years, which involves introducing nationwide programming in all schools and an online leadership academy that helps disadvantaged youth from around the world. They aspire to reach countries and continents in need, including Africa, India, and the Middle East. As the vision becomes a worldwide movement, the founders are confident that this generation and the next will reap the hard work of emerging leaders who are both committed and confident.
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