Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2002, had a dream.
“When you attend a place like the Naval Academy, you’re taught the importance of honor, courage, commitment, giving it your best shot every time, being people of integrity, looking out for others and telling the truth,” Robinson said.
In 2015, she gathered six Naval Academy graduates to form Leadership LINKS, a nonprofit organization with a mission to offer leadership education that facilitates impactful living, spiritual and character development.
The core values of Leadership LINKS — Love, Inspiration, Network, Knowledge and Service — are woven into its mission to connect people with purpose.
Modeling female leadership for middle and high school girls, Leadership LINKS provides programs and experiences designed to encourage young women to embrace their potential.
One of the goals is to expand the vision that girls might have for themselves and to help them see that their future holds a wide range of possibilities, said QuaWanna Bannarbie, a member of the organization’s board of directors.
Since 2016, Leadership LINKS has grown its programming to include the annual Walk in Purpose Leadership Summer Program for Girls; the LINKS Mentoring Program that meets monthly throughout the school year; college preparation and campus visits; and the annual Leadership Experience Tour, or LET.
For the past two years, participants who satisfy their mentoring requirements are invited to attend the LET, whose purpose is to expose LINKS leaders to historical and modern influential leaders in a selected geographic area.
Officials with Leadership LINKS believe the LETs greatly enhance the understanding of transformational leadership.
The LET sites are selected so that LINKS Leaders can walk in the footsteps of and gain understanding from the conscious and influential leaders who have gone before them.
The 2018 Leadership Experience Tour in Atlanta commemorated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. King was born and grew up in Atlanta and became a pastor at the city’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Atlanta is also home to the headquarters of the Southern Leadership Conference, founded by King and his fellow civil rights activists.
Ramiyah Summers, who attended Allen Jay Prep Academy in High Point, participated in the 2019 LET to Montgomery, Tuskegee and Birmingham, Ala. She had the opportunity to visit Tuskegee University; one of King’s homes; the home of Booker T. Washington; the Legacy Museum; and the National Museum of Peace and Justice.
Ramiyah’s parents, Ronald and Shemika Summers, said they appreciate how Leadership LINKS builds strong young women of faith with morals and values.
“Ramiyah has benefited from Leadership LINKS by becoming more confident to go after things that she desires and wants,” her mother said. “She knows that she has to work hard and be the best version of herself.”
Ramiyah was reticent about speaking in front of people but with the help of her Leadership LINKS mentors, she overcame those fears.
Sole Carr, a three-year veteran of Leadership LINKS summer program and attendee of last year’s LET in Atlanta, graduated as class salutatorian. She received a $10,000 scholarship from her high school and a Bright Futures Scholarship and NOLA scholarship to attend Xavier University. She plans to return this summer to volunteer with the Leadership LINKS program staff during Walk in Purpose, where the board of directors will present her with a scholarship.
Kendra P. Leake, parent ambassador for Leadership LINKS, said: “This network of leaders and parents has made a tremendous impact on my child’s views of what she can and will accomplish in life.”
Leake said the charitable organization’s leaders want to help young women succeed and then learn how to help others do the same.
“I know I speak for all of the families who participate in this program: This organization was a blessing that fell into my lap for my daughter and a blessing to the community,” she said.