Rosati Leadership Academy (RLA) was founded in fall 2018 and received its federal nonprofit tax status in 2020. RLA is a community youth-development social service organization whose work is unique in the state of Maine. RLA is named in honor of Chris Rosati who soon after being diagnosed with ALS in 2010, decided to dedicate the rest of his life to spreading kindness. His inspiration is always with us: “Be Kind, Worry Less.” View Butterfly Effect from Chris Rosati on Youtube
n our first full semester of programming, during winter and spring of 2019, RLA delivered 82 quality soccer development sessions that utilized a rigorous mindfulness curriculum aimed at growing the social-emotional skill set of our participants. Operating with the support of Lewiston Public Schools, which provided access to school facilities, but with no community funding, RLA served 62 fourth- to-ninth grade boys and girls without a single practice cancellation, even on school holidays.
The success of our first semester of programming in winter/spring 2019 was made possible due to prior intensive community and relationship-building work. In order to build the strong foundation of a culturally-responsive community organization, throughout much of 2018, RLA Executive Director Chris White, who is also the director of the local Androstars, (free to play travel soccer club), visited community mosques and met with local Somali leaders, and took Somali language lessons. RLA forged relationships with the Lewiston School System, Recreation Department, other local nonprofit and youth-development organizations, and public and private housing authorities. Chris also spent time teaching full-time at Lewiston Middle School as its director of the school’s at-risk program.
From the fall of 2019 until the COVID-19 imposed shutdown in March 2020, RLA’s work expanded the number of participants in that same age range, nearly doubling, to 111, again providing sessions five days a week, for a total of 95 sessions. Many teachers within the school system also visited RLA at our then home of Longley Elementary School, and recognized the impact that RLA was having on students, by writing testimonials in support of our work. As a culminating event for the fall, in December 2019, 12 RLA participants attended Northeast Futsal Association’s Beantown Indoor Tournament in Boston, with a post-game meal at Portland’s Duckfat restaurant (a community supporter of RLA). Traveling to and from Boston to play in the tournament was the perfect reward for a fall of hard work, and it was also the perfect test of the social-emotional skills that we had been working to develop.
In August of 2020, we were able to start up again, this time with outdoor sessions and all the necessary CDC, MPA, and DECD COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Through our collaboration with Lewiston Public Schools, we were able to provide sessions five days a week, outdoors, at an Elementary School. This was an especially exciting time for RLA, as it marked the beginning of our much-anticipated girls’ program.
Another important development that took place during our summer 2020 session, was the return and participation of alumni from our first two years who had aged out of the program, serving as mentors, marking the formal beginning of RLA’s Leadership Development School. These high-school age mentors are selected based on exceptional leadership qualities demonstrated during their years as younger participants, or through recommendations from community leaders. Mentors are vital to our secondary leadership model. They serve as excellent role models for the younger participants and also have the opportunity to build their career skills experience. The Leadership Development School has the goal of establishing a culture in which our current participants aspire to become mentors and role models for those to come next. Through our partnership with a local nonprofit, Maine Community Integration, we were able to pay a stipend to three mentors, two young men and one young woman, for an incredible summer of leadership, humility, commitment, and dedication.
Over the course of 2019 and 2020, we also cemented our partnership with Bates College, a highly selective liberal arts college located in Lewiston. The college’s Harward Center for Community Partnerships funded RLA internships for Bates students, and we also continue to work with the Bates Men’s and Women’s soccer teams. Multiple players (and coaches) from each team attend sessions as coach-mentors, and RLA’s assistant director, Noah Riskind, is an assistant coach with the men’s team at Bates, and Chris White is a volunteer assistant with the women’s team.