LEAD Girls NC expanding to Carver and Cook schools

LEAD Girls NC expanding to Carver and Cook schools
May 05
14:07 2021

In 2015, after she took the daughter of a family friend into her home, Joy Nelson-Thomas set out on a journey to help at-risk pre-teen and teen girls to acquire the tools and resources they needed to become productive adults and leaders in their communities, by utilizing Learning Everyday Accomplish Goals (LEAD) Girls NC, a curriculum-based mentoring and peer support program for girls ages 9-18. 

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” Nelson-Thomas said during an interview with The Chronicle in 2016. 

“After raising a family friend for about seven years and seeing the hope I gave her, I realized that this was what I wanted to do.” 

Since its inception, LEAD Girls NC has impacted dozens of girls through its partnerships with local schools such as Mineral Springs and Wiley Middle Schools and Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy. And now the program is expanding to two more schools, Carver High School and Cook Literacy Model School. 

Cook will be the first elementary school to adopt the LEAD Girls program. Nelson-Thomas said after several conversations with Paula Wilkins, principal of Cook, Malisha Woodbury, chair of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education, and members of the Boston-Thurmond community, things just fell into place. 

“Lots of conversations and meetings led us to do a pilot,” Nelson-Thomas said. She said the goal is to expand the program into other elementary schools in the future. The program at Carver will be a four-year pilot that will focus on academics and improving leadership skills. 

When discussing the growth of Lead Girls over the years, Nelson-Thomas said there would be no Lead Girls without the support of the community. “I couldn’t do it without them; they are our village,” Nelson-Thomas said. 

“United Way, Twin City Development Foundation, The Women’s Fund, the Black Philanthropy Initiative, the City of Winston-Salem, the Richard J. Reynolds Foundation, along with two other family foundations, have been essential to our overall funding this year, along with the many donors who joined our LEADher Circle in its inaugural year.”

In addition to the programs in local schools, Lead Girls NC also offers a community-based program, which is open to all girls across the state. With the community-based program, LEAD Girls NC has connected with teens in Charlotte, Durham, High Point, and Greensboro. Five years from now, Nelson-Thomas said she believes the program will have a strong pipeline across the state, helping girls who need it the most. 

“I think in five years we will have a very strong pipeline and what that looks like I’m not sure yet, but I know whatever it is, it will be very intentional and led by data,” Nelson-Thomas said. 

For more information on LEAD Girls NC, visit

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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