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Building Potential:
The Campaign for LEO’s Preschool

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LEO is poised to expand and deepen access to life-changing early childhood education and care for low-income children in Greater Lynn.


At LEO Inc., we pride ourselves on being a respected community organization that provides children and families with comprehensive programs to address early learning, behavioral and mental health, nutrition and physical health, all leading to safer more stable home environments. Since establishing in 1965, LEO teachers and case managers have collaborated with more than 10,000 families to ensure children are “school ready” for kindergarten.

Growing up living in poverty, surrounded by complex social and economic conditions has its challenges. The long-term effects of trauma weigh heavily on our preschoolers. Using a data-driven approach, we consistently refine and redefine our model to transform the lives of children. 

Today, it has become critical that we improve the physical space in which our children learn. LEO will soon merge three existing preschool sites into one centrally located building on Broad Street. Fifteen modernized classrooms will expand the impact of our programs to 270 children annually, deepening access to LEO’s distinguished preschool program. The devastating effects of the prolonged pandemic make it essential that we act immediately.

We invite you to reach out for a date to tour our facilities, see our commitment in action and review our plans.


Birgitta S. Damon, CEO

Specialists will be available for immediate response when children are in need of assistance, improving the outcomes of interventions, minimizing the disruption for other children, and providing multiple facets of clinical care for each child

LEO teams will mentor and support each other during assessment and intervention, and will be available as a cohesive unit to communicate and engage with parents about how best to support their child’s emotional growth and learning.

LEO addresses and mitigates the myriad challenges experienced by our children, addressing deficiencies before they become a burden to the school system. This is the true measure of “school readiness.”


Kelly’s Road to Wellness

Kelly had a seizure in the classroom. Educators Ruth Diaz, Cindy Morales, Sharon Crowell and Reama Jouni were calmly and successfully able to put their training to work to ensure Kelly was safe and stable in our care. A moment they will not soon forget. Kelly had long suffered from Febrile Seizures, as our team would later learn at the hospital. Febrile Seizures, also known as a fever fit, is a seizure associated with a high body temperature. Kelly’s mom, Sury Pascual Guzman, was extremely frightened and noted Kelly had experienced these seizures outside of school but she did not know how to respond to her daughter; a helpless and dangerous position. Our staff nurse, Nicaury Suazo-Ortiz, went on home visits while Kelly was out of school. She educated Sury on the warning signs of an impending seizure, how to manage a seizure in progress, as well as how to prevent future seizures. Our staff assisted Sury by scheduling healthcare appointments; primary doctor and neurologist visits. Kelly was placed on an individual health plan so all involved with her care would be prepared with a solid understanding of her medications and best practices to keep her safe. Today, Kelly is a lively participant in the classroom and has been seizure free since spring! Kelly Pascual is a joyful addition to EHS and a source of pride for our community of parents and educators.

Trisha-Lynne Coolong, A Head Start Success, In Her Own Words

I was a Head Start baby. I grew up in the projects of Revere with my mom and three siblings. I was the first of my family to graduate high school. I became a devoted Head Start teacher while working toward my associate degree in Early Childhood Education, but was laid off due to a cut in federal funding. In 2014, I applied for a Lead Teacher position at LEO. I had been a Lead Teacher previously and had prior director’s experience. LEO took a chance on me. Knowing I was so close to graduating with my credentials, they offered me the Lead Teacher position. After two years in the classroom, I applied and was promoted to Assistant Center Manager, then to Center Manager! During this time, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Early Education, a Master’s of Science specializing in Special Education, and an Autism Spectrum Disorders certificate, thanks to LEO’s financial support. I currently serve all of our children and families as the Education and Access Manager. My journey was not easy. I have had my share of personal obstacles along the way. However, I never gave up on my goals or myself. I am proud to say I am a role model to my daughter and to the children and families I have the privilege to serve. 

Teamwork is Everything

Aizen Bonilla was always successful in our program. As he aged, and expectations changed, he began to struggle. In the early days of the pandemic, classrooms were half their usual size. This environment was manageable. As enrollment returned, Aizen displayed significant distress. In response to overstimulation, Aizen would leave the classroom to escape. He was physically aggressive with classmates and teachers, making it difficult to maintain safety. His mother, Isamar, was an incredible partner in her son’s educational journey. She navigated the referral process with Lynn Public Schools (LPS), completed testing, and received an individualized education plan (IEP). Aizen was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Because of COVID, support services were online. When in-person services reopened, Aizen only qualified for partial day services through LPS. Isamar kept Aizen enrolled at LEO so she could keep her job. Over the course of the year, the Lead Teacher and the Behavior Support Specialist made changes in Aizen’s world (schedules with visual prompts, routines, relationship-building exercises). The Behavior Support Specialist worked 1:1 with Aizen to expand his coping mechanisms. With intensive work, he learned to use rhythm (repetitive bouncing, call and response with clapping), pressure (a squeeze with the Behavior Support Assistant), soothing activities, and verbal expression to request the support he needed. The teaching team made an individual table where he could work when feeling crowded. His mother expanded her support system to pick Aizen up from school on days when he could not regulate. She worked shorter days on Mondays, which was his hardest day at school. Without specialized interventions, Aizen would not have been able to remain at LEO. Aizen made tremendous progress because he, his family and the LEO team worked together with shared goals.


“Having worked for LEO for more than 26 years, I know every dollar donated is used to help people in need. LEO is the agency that everyone can count on for a little help. LEO presents opportunity for all.”

Darlene Gallant, Former Director of Community Services

“I am proud of where I work, and the service we provide to the community. I come at giving from an interesting vantage point; the inside. I know LEO is supported in part by state and federal dollars, but corporate and individual giving is critical to our growth. We have experienced amazing generosity in my 5 years at LEO. These experiences made an impact on our donors, on my heart, and most importantly on our children and families. Win, win, and win.”

Julie Danahy Hebeisen, LEO’s Communications Manager

“I became familiar with LEO as a child. My Dad was involved with the organization while employed at GE in Lynn.  I often went with him to fundraising events or helped with small tasks at home to prepare for events.  He was a wonderful role model for the importance of volunteerism. He was dedicated to supporting LEO’s mission of providing opportunities to families and children in and around Lynn.  As an adult, I have a deeper understanding of how critical those opportunities are for people who are at risk. The support LEO provides to the most vulnerable in our society stabilizes families, enriches lives, and gives hope to those struggling to meet basic needs. As part of my ongoing commitment, I contribute monthly donations to LEO. I encourage anyone who wants to help provide opportunities to families and children to opt into monthly contributions.  It is a small thing to do with such a big impact.”

Karen Ann Emmith, Monthly Donor to LEO

Leo Building


Total Funding To Date

Total Cost to build, Renovate and furnish $17.5M