Leaders from Evans High School and University of Central Florida came together for a day of service, networking and award recognition.

Forty juniors and seniors from Evans participated in the inaugural Leadership for Educational Attainment Developed through Service Youth Summit May 2 at UCF.

LEADS is a collaborative leadership program between the Center for Community Partnerships and Evans High School, A Community Partnership School in Pine Hills. The program allows middle and high school students to develop leadership skills through service-learning projects to help address social issues in the community that are important to the students.

“These programs are essential … because we want these students to know there are opportunities to continue to do things they are engaged in now when they move to a campus community,” said Jarrad Plante, Ed.D., CNP, program coordinator for the Center for Community Partnerships in the College of Health and Public Affairs at UCF.

Plante managed the program while working at the University of Massachusetts. The program has three major goals: increase school and civic engagement; increase leadership knowledge, skills and abilities; and further develop student appreciation for and understanding of the importance of educational attainment.

“The students are learning, through either articles or brainstorming, about different service needs in their community,” he said. “So they are learning the social topic and learning skills to execute a plan of action.”

LEADS worked with two classes from Evans this year: the Student Government Association and the Minority Leadership Scholars. The SGA class focused on respect, while the MLS class focused on career exploration.

The all-day summit included a service project with Goodwill’s “Good Soap” program, sorting donations and packing 935 hygiene bags to deliver to the Homeless Network of Central Florida. Evans students also got to meet with adult and student UCF leaders and participate in a scavenger hunt tour of the campus.

“For 95 percent of the students, this is their first time at UCF,” said Jennifer Eubanks, senior administrator of The Hub at Evans High School, at the summit.

Senior Kimani Binder had been to UCF before as a basketball player, but this trip gave him a chance to think about his past and future.

“On the bus ride here, we (the seniors) reflected on the past four years at Evans,” Binder said. “I’ll be going to Valencia College after I graduate.”

It’s not just the high school students who benefitted from the program; Elif Kelly, a UCF junior and LEADS coordinator at UCF, grew with the students from Evans.

Kelly worked with the students as they brought community members into the high school to connect and talk to the students, while building and fostering personal relationships.

“I’m 22 and close in age to the Evans students I work with,” she said. “I connect students with the community. You get each other. I love these kids.”

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