LaTisha Deleonardo

Teacher, Lake Shore Middle School

A sixth-grade teacher at Lake Shore Middle School in Belle Glade, Florida, LaTisha Deleonardo was delighted to bring the Girls II Women program to her students. Part of the inaugural Girls II Women class in 1997, she recognizes the value of helping girls develop to their full potential and pursue their dreams.

“Girls in small towns like Belle Glade and Pahokee, where I grew up, don’t typically have the opportunity to see the larger view of the world,” LaTisha explains. “Girls II Women opens doors: It helps them see the broad range of careers they can pursue and supports them as they prepare for higher education, choose a college, pinpoint a major and apply.”

Although college tours weren’t part of Girls II Women’s earliest years, the program was similar to today: “Professional women – psychologists, lawyers, accountants, doctors, etc. – came in to talk with us about career opportunities,” LaTisha shares. “We learned how to dress professionally, use appropriate etiquette and communicate effectively. More importantly, we learned not to let anything hold us back – to go for the career we wanted.”

LaTisha says that Girls II Women opened her mind to new experiences and places. She earned a scholarship to the University of Maryland, which gave her the opportunity to live outside of Florida. She also became involved in Upward Bound, a program to help minority high school students get into college. This experience convinced LaTisha to pursue teaching as her full-time career.

“I planned to come back to Florida temporarily to give back to the community where I had grown up, but once I became a sixth-grade teacher at Lake Shore, I couldn’t leave!” says LaTisha, who has since earned a master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.

“Girls II Women showed me that we can make profound positive changes in young women’s lives,” LaTisha concludes. “It is a network of caring, involved women who are there for you not only while you’re part of the group but throughout your life. They were always there for me, and they continue to be there for every girl who goes through the program. I’m proud to be part of this organization and very excited about the opportunities ahead for the girls who are part of it.”