LEAP offers lifelong skills to HISD students

A total of four Harlandale ISD students attended the second annual Leadership, Employability and Advocacy Project (LEAP) at Texas A&M University College Station over summer break.

Harlandale High School seniors Daisy Arroyo, Brandon Marsh and Jonathan Valencia, as well as McCollum High School senior Christopher Pfiester, were among the 30 students selected from across the state to participate in the 10-day project.

LEAP is designed to help youth with disabilities develop leadership and advocacy skills. Participants learn the history of the disability rights movement, engage in career training and gain exposure to legislative practices by visiting the Texas Capitol.  

 “LEAP taught me how to speak up, how to stand up for myself and it taught me leadership,” Brandon said.

His biggest take-away was learning how to be independent. During their 10-day stay, the students had the opportunity to live on campus in a dorm room.

“I know it is eventually going to happen, I know that one day I am going to have to move out and be on my own,” Brandon said. “After going through LEAP, I am ready to have that proper training.”

Daisy and Jonathan echoed Brandon’s remarks and both said their favorite part was learning how to be on their own.  

For Christopher, the biggest lesson was that having a disability does not take away your abilities.

“One of the speakers was paralyzed, but he still has a voice, he still has the right to vote, he’s still a normal human being,” Christopher said. “People with disabilities can still do a lot of the same things a person without a disability can do.”

The four students are now ready to share what they learned with their peers and other individuals with disabilities. 

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