LEDA News – Fall 2020


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Virtual Summer, Real-world Impact

Our journey into a brave, new, online world!

We have had a very eventful few months at LEDA! One of the highlights was our transition to virtual summer programs, which served more than 250 LEDA Scholars and Career Fellows. We are thrilled to report that we successfully adapted to the “new normal” imposed by the pandemic thanks to the skill and dedication of our staff and the community spirit of our Scholars and Fellows.

LEDA Summer Institute

During our 16-year history, the national scope of our program model allowed us to develop significant expertise in remote advising and support. This proved instrumental as LEDA pivoted all summer programming during 2020 from in-person to virtual. During the Aspects of Leadership Summer Institute, we prioritized accessibility, providing technology, internet access, and study grants for food and housing security. We also blended synchronous and asynchronous programming to accommodate Scholars’ schedules as they logged on from 37 states.

The Summer Institute experience really made me understand what the [unofficial motto] “LEDA for Life” really means,” said Sayra, a Cohort 16 Scholar from Las Vegas, NV. “I’m so happy to be a part of such an amazing community and get to know so many extraordinary people. I will be forever changed as a person and as a leader because of LEDA.”

LEDA Summer 2020-1LEDA Summer 2020-2
LEDA Cohort 16 Scholars showing their LEDA pride on social media“LEDA merch came in <3 Missing being on the Princeton campus but so grateful we get to do this SI virtually”

One of the culminating activities of the summer was the (Zoom) presentation of our Scholars’ Community Impact Projects. For seven weeks, Scholars applied their leadership skills by deeply considering the particular circumstances of their home communities, then designing an intervention that leverages the community’s strengths to address one of its challenges. During the final week of the Summer Institute, every member of Cohort 16 presented their project to their peers, faculty, staff, and invited guests. This year’s project topics included environmental awareness and sustainability, access to and quality of educational resources, mental health, identity and inclusion, and access to basic needs.

LEDA Summer 2020-4
Audience members applaud Cohort 16 Scholars’ Community Impact Project presentations

Though Cohort 16 Scholar Panisara, from Greensboro, NC, did not meet any of her fellow Scholars face-to-face, she felt that they built a strong sense of community. Months after the end of the Summer Institute, she is still in contact with her Scholar friends and is even making plans for the future, years from now, to meet up. As she shared, “it’s so cool because I’ve never been surrounded by so many like-minded peers.”

LEDA Career Institute

This past August, LEDA’s five-day 2020 LEDA Career Institute harnessed an online platform that centralized scheduling, session information, and this year’s “Main Stage” plenary events for our new 2020 Career Fellows. Sessions that were adapted from prior years included core career development workshops to help lay the foundation for career exploration and build career competencies, industry career panels to provide an introduction to an array of professional fields, and information sessions and “office hours” hosted by employer partners for Fellows interested in specific organizations. “It is incredibly empowering to receive so much support from peers and professionals. LEDA also helped me develop the skills I needed to begin growing a network and exploring careers,” said Career Fellow Cooper (Vanderbilt ’23).

Industries represented this year included Consulting, Finance, Government and Public Service, Law, Social Impact, and Corporate Social Responsibility, as well as newly added options covering Fellowships and Academia & Research. Session presenters included representatives from 36 organizations and reflected a similar diversity across the private, public, and academic sectors. Some of them were returning partners, such as CoStar Group, PIMCO, and Ropes & Gray LLP, whose continuing support has been instrumental since our very first Career Institute. Others, such as Standard Chartered, Fortress Investment Group, and D.E. Shaw were new members of the LEDA Career Network that we were delighted to welcome.

2020 LEDA Career Institute - Careers in Law2020 LEDA Career Institute - Alumni
Careers in Law panel with Andrea, Chidi, Eri, Jessica, Kayasha, and Zeb moderated by LEDA Board member Jesse M. FurmanLEDA alumni panel with LEDA Scholars Christian, Hung, Shola, Suren, and Yelka

In addition, one-on-one career coaching appointments provided Fellows with an opportunity to develop action steps toward their professional interests and goals, and a prioritization of fun community events and debrief sessions with our Career Mentors created spaces for meaningful interactions with staff and other Career Fellows.

“As a first-generation, low-income student,” said Career Fellow Shyanne (Barnard ’23), “I was interested in being in a space dedicated to helping FGLI students obtain resources and support. Despite it being online, I had an amazing experience! I learned so many new skills, such as personal branding, professional communication, and financial literacy. I was also introduced to a wider range of career trajectories that I may not have known if it wasn’t for LEDA.”

About the 2020 Career Fellows
This year, we welcomed 157 new Career Fellows into the LEDA Community. 88% of them identify as first-generation college students, and 94% identify as Black, Indigenous, or people or color. Our Fellows attend 60 colleges in 21 states throughout the U.S., with the top five most represented schools being Georgetown University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Stanford University, and Yale University.

Donor Spotlight: Standard Chartered

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

Standard CharteredWe are proud to introduce one of our newest President sponsors and partners, Standard Chartered. Over the course of the next year, Standard Chartered will engage with LEDA’s community of young leaders through their employee volunteering program. Staff will have opportunities to mentor students as they navigate their college and career pathways; engage with the LEDA community via exciting leadership and finance career panels; and support college Scholars, Career Fellows, and alumni with their networking, resume writing, and interview skills.

During this year’s LEDA Career Institute, we were excited to welcome Elaine Chin, Regional Head, Corporate Affairs, Americas and Brand & Marketing, Americas, as a featured guest for one of our plenary Executive Leadership Conversations. Standard Chartered also participated in one of this year’s highest-attended Finance Career panels, and we welcomed over 25 Standard Chartered volunteers as mentors, speakers, and Career Expo virtual hosts during this year’s Career Institute.

2020 LEDA Career Institute - Elaine ChinAn Executive Leadership Conversation with LEDA Senior Director of Career and Alumni Services Keisha Taffe and Elaine Chin of Standard Chartered

After the Career Institute, LEDA’s Executive Director, Lamont Gordon, was invited to share more about LEDA’s mission and vision with executive leaders from Standard Chartered. Career Fellows and Scholars also had an opportunity to interact with Standard Chartered during LEDA’s fall Finance Career Skills Series panel, “Demystifying the Search, Networking, and Interview Journey,” which provided the LEDA community with practical interviewing and networking advice. In mid-November, our community was invited to partake in a session entitled, “Rapid Resume and Elevator Pitch Review,” led by several Standard Chartered volunteers.

Lamont shared, “LEDA is thrilled to begin this tremendous partnership with Standard Chartered. We are grateful for this generous investment in LEDA as we seek to not only advance college and career opportunities for our nation’s future leaders but elevate the perspectives and voices of young people from underserved communities.”

Likewise, Torry Berntsen, Chief Executive Officer, Americas and Regional Head, Corporate and Institutional Banking, at Standard Chartered Bank, said, “We are pleased to partner with LEDA on this extremely important mission and are excited about the long-term partnership opportunities to enable a diverse representation in leadership in our society.”

As a standard-bearer in partnership engagement and participation, Standard Chartered is leading the way as we work together toward advancing our respective missions.

Community Feature: LEDA Cohort 16 Scholar Kennedy

Shiloh High School ’21
Hometown: Stone Mountain, GA

KennedyAs one of our newest Scholars, Kennedy was part of this year’s first-ever virtual Summer Institute. Kennedy’s favorite part of his #LEDAsummer was the community that was built, despite a remote learning environment, and the bonds he developed with his fellow Scholars, staff, and mentors, whom he now considers his second family. As he shared in a TikTok video, “The pandemic has given me a lot of time to reflect and be creative with the ways that I serve myself and others.” Click the video below to see his TikTok creativity in action.


This fall, Kennedy started his senior year of high school. He has a positive outlook and is looking forward to online classes and virtual clubs. Kennedy remains hopeful that this year will be a memorable one for him and his fellow Cohort 16 Scholars, and he is grateful for LEDA’s continuous support. “Throughout the pandemic, LEDA has given me a sense of normalcy and consistency at a time when that can seem so rare.”

Community Feature: LEDA Cohort 14 Scholar Cam My

Princeton University ’23
Hometown: Portland, OR

Cam MyCam My is well into her sophomore year at Princeton University, but she is not walking past Nassau Hall on campus as she attends classes. Like many fellow students throughout the country, she is taking classes remotely from home. Cam My admits that she has concerns about staying on top of her academics and staying in touch with her friends (“I am the worst texter!”). Nevertheless, she believes that a remote semester was “the most responsible thing for my school to do because of the risks involved with having everyone back on campus.”

During this challenging time, one way that Cam My is practicing self-care is by exercising her green thumb. “I like growing plants because I find that nurturing them is therapeutic,” she shared. “I hope that this will help me stay productive.” Click below to watch her most recent video.


LEDA has been a consistent presence in Cam My’s life, and she credits the strength of the LEDA Community with helping her ensure that she stays connected with other Scholars during a challenging time. In addition to this support from her peers, she is confident that advising provided by LEDA’s College Success team will be an important part of navigating this surreal academic year. Her prediction: “I will be signing up for more meetings!”

Community Feature: LEDA Cohort 3 Scholar Cielo

Wellesley College ’12
Hometown: Ridgewood, NY

Cielo“Lack of information is a barrier to higher education. It shouldn’t have to be this hard to succeed,” said Cielo, founder of Road to Uni and one of the inaugural winners of the David Prize. Cielo is passionate about expanding access to higher education for first-generation students and students of color like herself. As a graduate of the NYC public school system, she has first-hand experience with the immense challenges students face when there are more than 200 students for every guidance counselor in the city.

As a LEDA alumna, she also has personal experience with the impact that high-quality, comprehensive college advising can have on a student’s future. Inspired by her LEDA journey, which included graduating from Wellesley College, Cielo’s nonprofit organization provides around-the-clock answers to New York City students with college access questions. Road to Uni streamlines key information, such as scholarship deadlines, internship tips, and financial aid requirements. The platform also offers real-time messaging and includes 90+ video tutorials outlining every step of the college admissions process for students and parents.

The David Prize, modeled on the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grants,” was established by the Walentas Family Foundation as a “celebration of individuals and ideas to create a better, brighter New York City. The Prize welcomes those with the grit and vision to change our communities, our culture and our future for good.” Starting this year, five winners are selected annually and each receive a $200,000 grant.

LEDA Application Deadline Approaching: Join the LEDA Community

Our journey into a brave, new, online world!

We are in the process of searching for our next Cohort of LEDA Scholars! If you know extraordinary young leaders like Kennedy, Cam My, and Cielo, encourage them to visit to learn more about our organization and start their applications today. The submission deadline is December 14, 2020.

Interested students can also follow our Recruitment & Admissions team’s Instagram account to stay up-to-date on upcoming information sessions: @leda_recruitment.

Who should apply:

  • Juniors attending public high school in the U.S. (graduating in 2022)
  • U.S. Citizens, Permanent Residents, or DACA recipients
  • Annual household income under $90,000
  • Minimum unweighted GPA of 3.5

Successful applicants demonstrate:

  • A desire to be challenged academically
  • A strong commitment to their studies
  • A desire to be a leader in their families, schools, and communities
  • A lived commitment to LEDA’s four Core Values: Excellence, Integrity, Compassion, and Community

New LEDA Scholars attend the seven-week Aspects of Leadership Summer Institute and receive leadership training, college guidance, and college application support throughout their senior year. In college and beyond, LEDA provides ongoing academic advising and socioemotional support, career exploration opportunities, and additional guidance for graduate school planning. Most importantly, new Scholars will join a vibrant, diverse, enduring community of fellow emerging leaders that live up to our unofficial motto, “LEDA for life!”

LEDA Alumni Join LEDA Board

Welcome, Jordan and Elizabeth!

We are excited to announce that our Board of Directors recently elected two LEDA alumni as its newest members: Jordan Dickson and Elizabeth Salinas. Jordan and Elizabeth will bring important perspectives from their professional experience and leadership, and their first-hand experience with LEDA. They join fellow alumna Yelka Kamara, a Board member since 2017, in ensuring that our future growth and success are informed by some of our most important stakeholders.

Jordan Dickson
LEDA Cohort 3, Stanford ’12, Georgetown Law ’18

Jordan DicksonJordan joined the LEDA Community in 2007 as a member of Cohort 3. He received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Government from Stanford University and a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center. He is currently a Federal Prosecutor at the United States Department of Justice, where he prosecutes complex cases involving politicians, government officials, and crimes of public corruption. Jordan lives in the Washington, D.C., area and has six younger siblings in California.

After graduating from college, Jordan worked for E. & J. Gallo Winery and coached high school basketball. He was also elected to the Modesto City Schools Board of Education, becoming the youngest elected person in Modesto’s history. After his term ended, Jordan attended law school. While at Georgetown, he was a Public Interest Fellow, a member of the Black Law Students Association, and taught a law class in the D.C. public school system. At the end of his final year, he was one of four graduates from across the country to be selected as part of the U.S. Attorney General’s Honors Program for the Department of Justice, Criminal Division, beginning his career as a federal prosecutor directly out of law school.

Elizabeth Salinas
LEDA Cohort 2, MIT ’11, Harvard GSE ’15

Elizabeth SalinasElizabeth joined the LEDA Community in 2006 as a member of LEDA Cohort 2. A proud first-generation college student, she earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in higher education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is currently a Senior Research Associate at HCM Strategists, where she is a member of the postsecondary policy team and works to identify and eliminate equity gaps in higher education. A specialist in research and data analysis, Elizabeth provides strategic guidance for multiple clients including Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She currently resides in Malden, MA, and enjoys baking in her spare time.

Elizabeth’s drive to develop policies that eliminate educational inequities is grounded in her professional experience working directly with aspiring college students. Her career includes a position on Capitol Hill working on STEM education policy as a fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, teaching high school physics in her hometown of Brownsville, TX, and serving as a program coordinator for the MIT Office of Engineering’s Outreach Program.

Elizabeth spent years supporting teenagers and young adults through the college selection and application process, specifically engaging students from traditionally underrepresented and underserved backgrounds. Her experience has given her a clear-eyed focus on why our nation needs stronger education policies and a resolve to always remember the students that these efforts should benefit. It was also immensely valuable during Elizabeth’s term as a member of the inaugural LEDA Policy Corps in 2018-2019.

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