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A Summer of Discovery

The Steward School
LEAP program prepares students for success
The Steward School’s Latino Education Advancement Program (LEAP), now in its 16th year, is a tuition-free, four-week summer program for Latino students entering grades 8-12. Small classes, dedicated teachers, and college counseling add up to an enriching experience designed to contribute to high school success and college readiness. Steward Middle School World Languages Teacher Claudia Ramirez directs the program, which takes place on campus and is open to students from Richmond and surrounding regions. This year’s LEAP program took place June 20-July 14. 

Educational and Social Opportunities 
Through various classes — English, math, Spanish, and more — LEAP students learn in a nurturing environment. They also enjoy extracurriculars, including swimming, photography, chess, and music. In addition, field trips give LEAPers the opportunity to enjoy some of Richmond’s many cultural offerings. At the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, students explored the museum’s vast collection. They also strolled through Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, famous for its expansive variety of flowers and plants.

College 101
Junior and senior students who participate in LEAP also receive college counseling, participate in mock interviews, tour a college, and explore the college application process. This year’s cohort visited Virginia Commonwealth University. Decked out in commemorative T-shirts, they toured the campus, including the University’s engineering department. “We also equip students with financial information about college and guide them as they explore career opportunities,” noted Ms. Ramirez. “When students leave LEAP, we’re hopeful that college is in their future.” 

Eleventh-grader Robert Shealy, a first-time LEAP participant, said, “I enjoyed connecting with other Latino kids. I made friends I could relate to.” The trip to Lewis Ginter was especially meaningful to Robert. “We planted marigolds in the kids’ garden in memory of loved ones we have lost, to commemorate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is celebrated in November,” he said. The college counseling sessions on financial aid gave Robert the skills and confidence to save for college. “LEAP was fun because every day was a new experience,” he said. “It’s incomparable to anything else!” 

This was the fourth time that Sofia Dawson, a twelfth-grader, participated in LEAP. 

“Each year, the classes I take during LEAP make me stronger throughout the school year,” she said. Plus, extracurriculars such as chorus add an extra element of joy to each day. “Singing makes me happy,” she said, “and I love chess and origami, too.” 

As she sets her sights on the future, Sofia is thankful for the college counseling she received during LEAP. “I’ve become a better writer, and that will help me with admissions essays,” she said. “And the financial aid and scholarship lessons were great.” Just as important: “I made the best of friends.”

Giving Back 
Sharon Tamayo ’21 knows firsthand the deep connections that LEAP fosters. A five-time participant and currently a junior at VCU studying social work, Ms. Tamayo said the program “opened me up to feeling more connected to my culture. I spent time with people who look like me … we spoke Spanish, listened to the same music, and shared some of the same values.” 

For the past two years, Ms. Tamayo served as a volunteer during LEAP, working alongside Ms. Ramirez, her former Spanish teacher at Steward. She shared tips with LEAP participants about choosing colleges and filling out scholarship applications, and she researched grant funding for the program. “LEAP is my happy place,” she said. “I love seeing the kids blossom throughout the three weeks.” 

Cause for Celebration 
On July 14, the LEAP students and their families gathered in the Athletic Center for a ceremony to celebrate an unforgettable three weeks. After receiving commemorative certificates, the proud LEAPers joined their families for refreshments and photos. Ms. Ramirez said, “LEAP is a wonderful way for young people to create community and prepare for high school and college.”

Thank you to our LEAP supporters for their generosity:
2022-23 Supporters:
The Memorial Foundation for Children
Moses D. Nunnally, Jr. Charitable Trust B

Founding Supporters:
The Edward E. Ford Foundation
Genworth Financial
Monument Consulting, LLC in partnership with WestRock (formally MeadWestvaco)

2022-23 In-Kind Supporters:
Clayborne Education
Goya Foods
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Meriwether Godsey
NOVA Swimming
Nunnally Charitable Trust
Performance Food Group
Shelton H. Short, Jr. Trust
The Brinks Company
The Steward School
Virginia Commonwealth University

Interested in supporting the LEAP program? Email

General Contact

The Steward School
11600 Gayton Road
Richmond, VA 23238

phone: (804) 740-3394
fax: (804) 740-1464

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