Darden Advances Diversity With LEAD Program

June 17, 2010 — What happens when 30 academically gifted, diverse high school students from around the country attend a top-tier business school for three weeks? And what happens when these talented students then go out into the community to mentor local high school students, many of whom aspire to be the first in their families to attend a college or university?

As it has done each year since 1983, the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business will host a select group of multi-talented high school juniors from all parts of the U.S. for a residency camp as part of the Leadership Education and Development Program, or LEAD. More than 750 students have participated in Darden's LEAD program since its inception.

"This year, the theme is 'social media and business strategies,'" said 2005 Darden graduate Paul Harper, who directs the Darden-LEAD Summer Business Institute  and designed the curriculum, which includes classes with Darden faculty, guest speakers, company visits and engagement with the greater Charlottesville community.

Over the course of three weeks, using Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, the student "LEADers" will start their own firms and create a significant Web presence for them.

"Darden's faculty is always eager to innovate," Harper said, "and looks forward to the opportunity to weigh in on these new technologies with an eye to the future."

The students will also sharpen their leadership skills. "The youth that come here really grow," said Earnest Lee Young, a LEAD graduate who has returned to Darden for the second time as head resident adviser. "LEAD is a launching pad, and the students realize their true capabilities."

Also new to the program this year is a community day-of-service component called the Jaime Escalante LEADership Camp. Jaime Escalante, who died in March, was a Bolivian-born American educator who earned renown and distinction for his success at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, Calif., where he taught students calculus from 1974 to 1991. Escalante was the subject of the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver," in which he was portrayed by actor Edward James Olmos.

In Escalante's honor, students from the Darden-LEAD Summer Business Institute will June 19 serving as mentors to between 15 and 20 local Albemarle County high school students, many of whom aspire to become the first person in their family to attend a college or university. By pairing local rising juniors with national rising seniors, the camp hopes to familiarize the juniors with the college application experience and to build new and transformative relationships.

Called "LEADing Through Mentorship," the day camp will also provide participants with college application and scholarship advice from the U.Va. admissions staff. LEAD-Darden faculty and staff will deliver presentations on management and entrepreneurship and will facilitate conversations about professional development.

Featured speakers will include Jonathan Mariner, executive vice president and CFO of  Major League Baseball; Ric Ramsey, CEO of LEAD Program in Business; and Luvelle Brown, chief information officer of Albemarle County Public Schools.

The Jaime Escalante LEADership Camp is organized by Harper and Gloria Maria Rockhold, Albemarle County Public Schools' community engagement manager. Rockhold assists the county's Latino population and coordinates the Latino Center and community relations. She helps families integrate into the community and creates programs for students at risk of dropping out of high school.

The LEADership camp, made possible by the support of the Federal Depository Insurance Company, will conclude with a community dinner on the Darden Grounds with the participants' families and guests.

"Unless their family is behind them, it's difficult for children to succeed in higher education," Rockhold said.

As the Darden School delivers the LEAD Summer Business Institute, the U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science will also host for the second year the LEAD Summer Engineering Institute.

Established in 1980 by executives at McNeil Pharmaceutical, LEAD is a national partnership of America's top corporations and top schools that aims to build a talented and diverse workforce for the global business environment of the future.

Founded in 1954, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business is a professional school that improves society by developing principled leaders for the world of practical affairs For information, contact communication@darden.virginia.edu.