By Angel Gingras
For The Diamondback
Two University of Maryland alumna are working to improve the lives of students in the Washington, D.C., area through mentorship and after-school programming at the Youth Leadership Foundation.
Janaiha Bennett is an alumna of this university and the executive director of the Youth Leadership Foundation in Washington, D.C., which provides mentoring to students from third to 12th grade who live in underrepresented communities. She is the first female to hold this position in the organization’s 24-year history.
“The relationships that are created between the students and the staff are really deep-seated … you just bond, and so it is sort of a family and a community” Bennett said. “So essentially what we do is give students the tools they need to fulfill their potential as a human being.”
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YLF is a year-round program open to students in any of the organization’s seven partner schools in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Students can take part in after-school or weekend programs during the school year or in the five-week summer camp as often as they want. This fall, the staff is running an in-person program with the option for students to attend virtually.
Bennett was first introduced to YLF when she was an undergraduate student at George Washington University. She joined other college students and began mentoring young women, working her way up through various program roles, until she became executive director in 2018.
Bennett was also at YLF when she graduated with her master’s degree in school psychology from this university in 2013, which she said contributes to the work she does at YLF.
“I learned a lot about working with individual students and how to work with teachers so that they can help students,” Bennett said. “It was a really great experience.”
Kayla Montgomery, also an alumna, began her mentorship with the organization when she was a sophomore at this university. She graduated with a degree in criminology and criminal justice in 2020.
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