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Leah credits two people with her inspiration to relate to her community in a hands-on way -- her father and her high school government teacher, Oskar Scheikl ('94, '01M). They taught her that civic responsibility means getting involved. She unexpectedly found her point of involvement in 2006 when she began working part time for the Gus Bus, a collaborative literacy effort, part of JMU's Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services. She was soon hired full time to work on a new reading program for Page County, Va., and hasn't looked back. Leah is passionate about helping families succeed by overcoming language and income level barriers through literacy and the collaborative efforts of various service organizations. Today she coordinates the Reading Road Show and serves as program specialist for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program. "There are so many ways to impact these neighborhoods," she says. "I like building trust with the people I see week after week." In 2008, she developed a plan to hold several family movie nights in a low-income neighborhood served by the Gus Bus. She says, "We had pizza, and everyone was sitting together -- different ethnic groups -- watching the movie while the little kids were running around together on the street. It was just like a little block party."
"The interaction with all these families is sustaining to me. I'm so engaged with my world, with my town. I love the sense of neighborhood. ... I have too much fun in my job. It doesn't feel like work."