(SUMMERLIN)–Erica Mosca has all the stamina and perseverance of a local non-profit professional here in Las Vegas, and with a purpose.
As founder and executive director of Leaders in Training, Mosca is responsible for mentoring and graduating kids from rough and tough circumstances.
Has she succeeded? You betcha.
In the seven years that LIT has existed, it is estimated that the organization has reached more than 160 young people. And while the organization does not track scholarship dollars, they have students who are on full-ride scholarships at the University of Michigan, St. John’s University and Reed College.
As she spoke to employees of UnitedHealthCare and OptumCare at their Summerlin-area regional headquarters recently during a lunch-and-learn series, Mosca reflected on the challenges of launching LIT on her own with only a modest budget.
“Just since you’re on the east side or the north side doesn’t mean that that your demography is your destiny,” Mosca said.
As a community-based organization, LIT started small, with only a modest budget of about $2,000. Small and steady growth fueled its success thus far. Mosca, 32, said the local philanthropic community stepped up after her students started getting college acceptances.
“We’re a unique grassroots nonprofit organization,” Mosca said in describing LIT, which pulls from 24 different area high schools and whose services are completely free. “We look at our program as assets-based.”
And the vision of LIT is to send these students to college. For many of these students, they will be the first ones in their family to attend college.
Mosca said that for LIT, there are no barriers for entry into the program.
“We say we’re wide open,” she explained. “It’s a big commitment, we’re organized and systemic. We’re not related to any school on purpose so we can do more.”
LIT’s vision and purpose is broken down by its year by year program. When they’re freshmen, they’re exposed to what’s available in Las Vegas, Mosca explained. Years one to three are direct mentoring, and then in year three, they begin the steps of discussing college access, from free ACT test prop to applying for colleges and scholarship dollars.
In Year four, they continue applying for colleges.
“We pay for the college application fees, and we’re also developing that support system. Our college kids make sure they are giving back to the community,” she added.
It’s part of Mosca’s mantra, who herself is a Boston University graduate and the first in her family to go to college.
“I always wanted to do something to help people and it was my experience as a first-generation myself that fueled me,” Mosca said.
Thinking long-term, her vision is to have students run the organization.
“In 10 years, we want students to run it and be the alumni donors that make us a self-funding organization that can be responsive to actual community needs,” Mosca said.
Leaders in Training
900 N. Lamb Blvd (Lamb and Washington), Suite 130
Editor’s Note: the CCSW Sunday Spotlight aims to feature the human side of a CCSDer. If you or someone you know may have an interest in being interviewed for the Sunday Spotlight, contact me here on firstname.lastname@example.org.