Project LEAP empowers HISD students to succeed

A summer program provided three Harlandale ISD students with a fun “college experience” where they were able to acquire lifelong skills to succeed after graduation.

McCollum High School seniors Daniel Guerrero and Amber Gutierrez, as well as Harlandale High School senior Justine Hale, participated in the third annual Leadership, Employment and Advocacy Project (LEAP) at Texas A&M University College Station over summer break.

The students were among the 30 high school juniors and seniors selected from across the state to participate.

LEAP is designed to help youth with disabilities develop leadership and advocacy skills. Participants learn the history of the disability rights movement, engage in career training and gain exposure to legislative practices by visiting the Texas Capitol. 

“I learned how to be brave and how to stand up for myself,” Daniel said. “My favorite part was learning how one guy, who played football and couldn’t really see with one eye, was able to deal with his disability.”

During the 10-day project, the students were equipped with leadership plans to implement upon return to their communities, employment skills and a plan to attain continued or more complete independence.

The students expressed how much fun they had while visiting the university campus and staying in a dorm room.

“It was my first time at a university, and I learned new things. It was fun,” Justine said. “I’m so shy, so I was happy to interact with new people. I learned a lot and made new friends.”

The students also had the opportunity to enjoy fun recreational activities, including a talent and dance show.  

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