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Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP)™ is a multimillion-dollar national initiative to increase employment and educational opportunities for young people facing some of the greatest challenges on the path to adulthood. The LEAP initiative was partially funded at inception by a grant from the Social Innovation Fund, and is now supported by national and local philanthropies. 

Focusing on youth who are homeless or highly mobile, in the juvenile justice systems, or foster care, LEAP integrates programming, content, and resources to more effectively support young people as they earn a secondary credential and explore career pathways. In Minnesota, there are currently eight sites serving “Opportunity Youth” that are connected to the LEAP initiative with more to come. 

Questions & Answers

What is the LEAP Initiative? 

LEAP is a national initiative created to support young people as they earn credentials and explore career pathways.  Initially funded by the Social Innovation Fund, LEAP is now funded in part by the Annie E Casey Foundation which supports 10 LEAP sites across the United States. Through LEAP, the Foundation hopes to identify effective strategies for helping youth and young adults overcome challenges and succeed in school and at work by adapting evidence-based models to work for the unique needs and strengths of Opportunity Youth.  LEAP MN utilizes the Jobs For America’s Graduates (JAG) curriculum as one core element of LEAP.  The LEAP Core Elements are 

  • Adult Relationships and Guidance 

  • Youth Engagement and Leadership 

  • Collaborative Systems and Partnerships 

  • Equitable and Inclusive Environments 

  • Flexible Program Delivery  

What is a LEAP Site? 

LEAP Sites are spaces where Opportunity Youth spend time—community centers, schools, or youth-serving organizations.  In Minnesota, many LEAP Sites are Alternative Schools which serve youth who have taken non-traditional, tailored pathways to their education.  Current LEAP MN Sites include 

What is a LEAP Partner? 

LEAP Partners are organizations, companies, groups, or programs who coordinate to support Opportunity Youth in the LEAP network by providing services, career pathway opportunities, and advocacy. Some examples of LEAP Partners are  

  • Hennepin County’s PLUS Program 

  • Hennepin Healthcare’s Pathways Program 

  • MCTC and MPS’s D3 Program 

  • MN Department of Transportation 

  • Bridgemakers 

  • Northgate Development’s Regional Apprenticeship Training Center (RATC) 

  • Avivo 

How can I find out more?



LEAP Bulletin Board

Check out LEAP's Bulletin Board of community happenings for youth.  Click here for opportunities to build wealth, connect with others, get support, be a changemaker, or sign up for LEAP offerings.

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LEAP Staff

Emily Terrell
Emily Terrell
Director of Youth Employment Strategies
Cynthia Gomez
Cynthia Gomez
Lead LEAP Career Navigator
Nastaaja Johnson
Nastaaja Johnson
LEAP Expansion Manager
Victoria Pena
Victoria Pena
Plus Early - Middle College Coordinator
Trent Saari
Trent Saari
Senior LEAP Data Analyst
Abbie Thebault-Spieker
Abbie Thebault-Spieker
Plus Program Manager
Rachel Werch
Rachel Werch
Youth Apprenticeship Manager