Alum Letisha Vinson Brings High Quality Student Services to D.C.

March 12, 2024

As students around the country continue to experience the effects of the pandemic and learning loss, Bellwether created a snapshot of K-12 student wellness in Washington D.C. in 2023. Key findings include responses from older students, who scored lower than younger students on multiple indicators of well-being. Researchers find that even among those who scored high on multiple factors of wellness, less than 40% of students reported feeling engaged in school and less than 50% reported using ideas from school in their daily lives. 

To help set students up for success, Leaders of Color 2023 alum Letisha Vinson is working to establish a comprehensive wellness program for students in Washington, D.C. Her program is designed to equip youth with the knowledge, resources, mentorship, guidance, and skills they need to thrive and overcome the barriers that hinder their success.

Letisha’s drive to improve student wellness and school engagement comes from her own lived experience. As a child in Indiana, Letisha was bussed to a school where she thrived. When it was time for eighth grade, her family moved to Boston, and things changed. “I had a great educational foundation and never knew that people didn't. That was just normal for me. Until I went to eighth grade, when I moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and because I moved over the summer, I was late for applying for anything. And because I was late, and rolling into eighth grade, I went to a public school in Boston. I won't sit here and say the school was terrible, but it was very, very, very different from what I was used to.” At her new school, Letisha’s academic performance stood out. Along with a small cohort of classmates, Letisha applied to and was accepted to the prestigious Boston Latin public exam school. She was awarded a scholarship, and suddenly was very aware of the difference between her trajectory and that of her classmates. 

“...a lot of the students who were in that same grade were not [getting opportunities] because they came from the previous year at the same school with the same resources, and teaching and instruction and so forth. And that's when I realized, ‘Wow, things could be different.’ But I also realized when you have access to the resources, you have opportunities,” Letisha shares. 

That realization propels Letisha in her work today - both professionally as a parent advocate and student wellness entrepreneur, and personally as a mom to two kids. “I know there are a lot of students who suffer and who need help and support and resources. They need great changes and they need an advocate, but their parent isn't in a position to do it.” 

Letisha serves on the parent advisory board at KIPP DC and works with Parent Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE). “PAVE is working to amplify parents’ voices in spaces where there are decision-makers, policymakers, and other stakeholders that can ensure that our youth, our students, within the city, or within our systems, have equitable access to quality programming and instruction.” 

As an entrepreneur, Letisha is working to implement student wellness programs in schools in D.C. “I want to empower D.C. students with the knowledge that will empower them to make informed choices about their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They will learn about healthy lifestyle practices, nutrition, stress management, and self-care. Equipped with this vital knowledge, I believe they will develop the resilience and strength to confront the challenges that life presents.” Students will also be connected to mentors and role models along with access to essential resources like scholarships, internships, and vocational training. 

Letisha credits her advocacy work and life experiences for her relentless vision and work today. “All these things have shaped and helped me to be an advocate for those who don't have one, and to try to be a part of the change that we hope for our future and for the future of our youth.”

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