NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — “I thought I was going to be home all summer and now that I’m out here singing, dancing, loving on my people, it’s the best experience I could ever ask for.”

For this week’s What’s Right with Schools, we’re bringing you to LEAP in New Haven. 

Last year, they weren’t able to hold their six-week program because of the pandemic. This year, they’re almost back to normal. 500 students all across the Elm City are able to enjoy the program for five weeks. 

“We work in six neighborhoods in New Haven, those are all neighborhoods with high levels of poverty,” Executive Director Henry Fernandez told News 8.

Volunteers come together to read to different age groups throughout the five weeks. Ms. Kelly is a retired teacher who has been enjoying retirement for ten years. She has volunteered with LEAP for the past few years. 

The read-aloud is a huge part of the program but there is so much more to LEAP. Emiya Pearse is a counselor and has been for four years but started out as a young student in the program herself. 

“This is how I found myself, this is how I have my leadership skills and this is how I make a difference in my community,” Pearse told News 8.

Senior counselor Nasir Underwood is also grateful to have the program back after the pandemic summer.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see everyone out here, all my kids, it’s electric I love it,” Underwood said.

While it’s serving as a fun program for students and counselors, Fernandez says it’s a bridge for the New Haven students.

“They’re able to really get ready through the summer to do all the kinds of activities that will help them get ready to be back in a classroom in September.” 

In the five weeks, their goal is to get kids ready to go back to the classroom, but not just from an academic standpoint.

“And that didn’t mean that we were going to pack in lots of academic work. Instead, it was helping them to start to build friendships that weren’t through FaceTime or Zoom,” Fernandez said.