Their program seeks to help young people create a better future for themselves, and is considered so unique that it won a Governor’s Award for Volunteerism and Service in May.
Chesterfield County twins Khaki and Stacey LaRiviere of the College of William & Mary (Class of 2014), received the award in the “family” category for starting L.E.A.D. Up! (Leadership, Education, Action and Development Up!) during their sophomore year at Midlothian High School. The program, which has mushroomed to six other high schools, has touched more than 600 students. The award recognizes the significant contributions of Virginia citizens to the life and welfare of the Commonwealth and its people.
“This year’s recipients reflect the tremendous difference individuals, families, businesses and non-profits can make in their communities through volunteerism,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell on the day of the award. “Each honoree’s contribution began with one word, ‘yes,’ and as we recognize their vision and accomplishments, we encourage all Virginians to follow their examples by engaging in their communities.”
The LaRiviere sisters began L.E.A.D. Up! to give experience to any student interested in leadership training. There was no application process, no minimum grade-point average. Any student had access, and any student who so desired was included.
The twins created a binder with a start-to-finish game plan for the schools and students to follow. Initially, they handed students a form letter to use in contacting local businesses seeking support and mentoring students in a variety of elements from how to run a meeting or put together a press packet, to parliamentary procedures and the legalities of running a business.
Students would have four or five training sessions a year depending on how many businesses they could enroll. At the end of the year they’d do a show-what-you-know presentation and a community service project that the students would initiate.
“Part of why we created L.E.A.D. Up! was because a lot of students would go out for class officer positions and it was usually a popularity contest and the same students kept getting those really valuable experiences, like learning how to delegate and learning to run meetings,” Stacey explained.
“The schools were losing a lot of opportunities for students to get that training, so we decided to do something giving equal access for everyone.”
Last summer, the LaRiviere twins met with W&M President Taylor Reveley, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Constantine and Chesterfield County School Superintendent Marcus J. Newsome about starting a L.E.A.D. Up! program on campus. Reveley and Constantine approved; bylaws and a constitution have been submitted, and a pilot program will be launched during the 2012-13 academic year.
Students who are L.E.A.D Up! program coordinators will seek out subject matter experts from Williamsburg and surrounding business communities. The experts are asked to coach courses like “Business Presentations,”
“Fiscal Responsibility and Budgeting,” “Project Management,” or “Responsibility and Liability” to area high school students.
Then, William & Mary students move through their own training in “Group Facilitation,” and other leadership skill sets to assist and mentor the high school students in their programming. Specifically, the college students will introduce the program to the high schools, working in an advisory role to help set up high school L.E.A.D. Up! chapters in the Williamsburg-James City County area.
“Think of it as an ‘each one, teach one’ scenario,” said Khaki. “The goal is to help young people achieve leadership success in the workplace and within the family.”
The twins see several benefits. The students benefit from engaging directly with area businesses and community leaders, building relationships that might grow into employer relationships. Businesses are able to expand their own leadership and mentoring opportunities through participating in their L.E.A.D. Up! college chapter.
Professionals are exposed to talented students, who are exposed to the services, products and impacts of the participating businesses and organizations.
Collegiate members will assist the high schoolers with their selected community service projects that are the culminating programs selected by the students. The purpose of these programs is to provide a service or project of positive impact to the community by utilizing the new skills learned. One example of a community project is a partnership with a local symphony to collect a variety of string instruments to be redistributed to under-served public schools to promote the learning and love of the arts.
“The result is a pool of trained high school leaders, college leaders and more engaged community leaders,” said Khaki. “The by-product? Strengthened ‘Town-Gown’ relationships.”
Stacey, a Government major, is the president of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Society, secretary of public affairs for the Student Assembly, and a Dean’s List student who was inducted into two academic honoraries. Khaki, a Public Policy and Economics major, is the treasurer for the junior class, and a member of the Student Alumnae Council. Both are graduates of W&M’s Student Leadership Foundation.