L.E.A.D. Center for Youth Says Girls Allowed & Proposes bill to add “A” for Athletics to STEAM Act

Staff Report

Tuesday, February 28th, 2023

The L.E.A.D. Center for Youth, a sports-based youth development (SBYD) organization for at-risk Black boys in under-resourced communities of Atlanta, has announced an expansion that will include a girls’ initiative for the first time in the organization’s history.
The girls’ tennis program was officially announced at the State of L.E.A.D. annual community meeting on February 10, marking the organization’s first venture for girls that will supplement its robust boys’ baseball development program. L.E.A.D. Center for Youth Co-founder and Executive Director Kelli Stewart also announced a second new endeavor, “Power A,” that will propose a bill to add an additional "A" to STEAM education making it Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, ATHLETICS, and Mathematics education. 
“Just as the STEM Act became STEAM after the addition of arts to the list of what is generally considered to be worthwhile educational pursuits, we wish to plead the case for the addition of an “A” for athletics as well,” Stewart said. “Athletics, particularly sports delivered through the SBYD methodology, teach kids valuable, character-building life skills such as resilience, confidence, and collaboration. Furthermore, physical activity can boost mental health, a disparately neglected issue for vulnerable youth.”
“As for our new girls’ tennis initiative, we are thrilled to extend our program to girls and young women who can undoubtedly experience the same developmental benefits from sports as young men,” said CJ Stewart, L.E.A.D. Co-founder and former Chicago Cubs outfielder. The tennis program will be led by Mackenzi Stewart, the daughter of CJ and Kelli, who is currently a senior student-athlete at Southern University in Baton Rouge. Mackenzi is a two time high school state champion (Westminster Schools-Atlanta) and she was named to the SWAC All Conference Team and recognized for having the highest GPA of all female student-athletes at Southern University in her sophomore and junior years, respectively.
As with all L.E.A.D. endeavors, these new programs are made possible by the organization’s corporate sponsors, including the Atlanta Braves, Adidas, Georgia's Own Credit Union and Google. Reginald “Reggie” McKnight, Google’s Global Head of Social Impact, was among the speakers at the event and emphasized the importance of L.E.A.D.’s contributions to the community.
“L.E.A.D. is changing lives by building a community with athletics as the foundation for strategically accessing and pursuing  the educational and civic opportunities that ultimately lead to career connections,” McKnight said. “Google is excited to support this next phase of L.E.A.D.’s growth with the launch of a girls’ initiative.  Sports motivate, stimulate, and excite, sparking a passion in students from all walks of life and instilling values that will follow them throughout their lives. The transcendent leadership of Kelli, CJ, and Mackenzi follows in the tradition of some of the most iconic trailblazers this city – and the world – has seen.  L.E.A.D. is grounded in love: for thousands of Black children here in Atlanta, for our community, and for true equity. Google is proud to further their vision.”