Notes From the CEO: Journey Into 2022

A brief message from LEAD's CEO, Andy Duran.

Dear Friends,

LEAD’s journey began in 1986 with a small group of parents who wanted to take action. As our organization has grown, so has our belief in LEAD’s role and vision for impact in the communities we serve. Today, we are proud of our history of helping to create healthier communities for youth.

Our strong values have guided us through this past year. As I write this letter, we continue to navigate a global pandemic, social inequity, significant teen mental health concerns, an uptick in substance abuse and overdose, and more. Many organizations like our own have buckled, and indeed caved, under the strain. I believe that the past 18 months have been a defining moment for our society – and a defining moment for LEAD. So, I want to share with you some highlights of our story during COVID-19.

Here is some of what we are proud of accomplishing since March of 2020:
• We accommodated an increase in Text-A-Tip (now TextForHelp) volume of nearly 400%, and staffed up accordingly.
• We hired six additional staff members.
• Despite budgetary concerns brought on by COVID-19, we did not have to let anyone go, nor did we have to furlough a single employee or contractor.
• We restructured our Board and redeveloped our governance strategies.
• We added 5 Board subcommittees (Prevention and Coalition, Clinical, DE&I, Finance, and Advancement and Marketing). We have begun to invite community members to serve on these committees. As an aside, if you’d like to join a subcommittee, please email me and let me know. We’d love to have you.
• We redeveloped our strategic goals for the future.
• We took a deep dive into LEAD’s history and established a road-map for our future destinations.
• We built a new website, and additional content is added routinely.
• We refreshed our brand by slightly revising our brand imagery and messaging, and built a new marketing operation.
• We rebranded Text-A-Tip to a more student-centered
• We wrote new content, presentations and materials for vaping, marijuana, underage drinking, as well as a new parent-focused presentation entitled “Raising a Drug-Free Teen.”
• We guided prevention activities – both in-person and virtually – in 10 different states.
• We conducted nearly 300 prevention education trainings, workshops and presentations.
While we are proud of these accomplishments, we still have a lot to do and we are driven by the work that is ahead of us.
Speaking of Mental Health
I was happy to see that, beginning in January of 2022, students across Illinois will be able to take up to five excused mental health days per school year. I think this is another very positive step in destigmatizing mental health and encouraging persons of all ages to seek support and help when they need it. You can learn more here.
As an organization, beginning immediately we are implementing paid mental health days for our team. We believe in normalizing taking a day off of school or work for mental health, AND actually saying that’s why we’re taking the day off. Is this costly for us? Yes. But, it’s more costly not to do it.
Taking on One of the Elephants in the Room
We pride ourselves on being edgy and innovative as an organization. A lot of our success depends upon us being at the forefront of trends, and then working smartly to forecast problems before they start. As such, we are developing something right now that we think is a little edgy, and it has to do with social media. We are going to begin using Instagram to warn against the dangers of Instagram. That’s all I’ll say about it for now, but if you want to track along with us, be sure to follow us
100 for 100
Our 100 for 100 Giving Campaign is still ongoing, and we’d like to achieve 100 gifts of $100 or more by the end of the year. We are about a quarter of the way there, and would be grateful if you would participate. This is an opportuity for you to link yourself with at least 99 others in helping us to create safer communities for youth. As always, we appreciate your support, and we can’t do our work without you. To make a gift, click here.
Weathering the Storm
Some of you may have participated – or may still be participating – in our Weathering the Storm conversation series. We are excited about the conversations that have been hosted to date, and are pleased by the data that is coming back. We will be synthesizing data over the next few weeks and will compile a community report to be shared at the LEADers Lunch in December.
By the way, it’s not too late to sign up to host a conversation. If you’d like to do so, you can sign up here. Or, just email Nicole Quick from our team at
Something Special, but Unnamed
We are creating a new mental health and substance use prevention-focused youth group in conjunction with Lake Forest High School. This group will serve as a place to discuss current events, build friendships, connect with others, and make a difference in our community. Beyond those key guideposts, we don’t really know what the group will look like because it will be led and the important decisions will be made by young people in our community. LEAD approaches youth leadership development with a “youth-led, adult-guided” philosophy, and we are grateful for the team at LFHS for working with us to create this new prevention group. If you have a teen who would like to be involved, you can learn more here, or reach out to our COO, Nate Biggs, at
Just for Fun
Those of you who know me know that I am a fan of 2 main things: Pittsburgh Sports and learning more about leadership. In my efforts to try to merge those 2 interests, I stumbled across this article entitled “5 Times Ted Lasso Reminded Us What Great Leadership Looks Like.” Ted Lasso happens to be one of my favorite shows, so I wanted to share this with you. My favorite of the ones mentioned is Kindness Matters. I’d love to hear your favorite, so if you think of it, drop me a line with yours! Im always curious to know what makes other leaders tick. Hope you enjoy!
In closing, our ultimate goal at LEAD is to work together to create a healthier future for youth. So, please keep us (and me) accountable in ensuring that our purpose guides us and that our values push us forward – toward that better future we believe in.
Andy Duran, CEO

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