Tracy Leonard’s incredible impact on child protection highlights the importance of cultivating genuine connections and accepting new opportunities.
For me, my motivation to end sexual abuse is as simple as a child’s innocence. From the moment a baby is born, they need an adult in their lives to care for them. When that adult pushes boundaries or violates them, their innocence is gone. Children trust adults and when that trust is broken it changes the trajectory the child was on.
I was introduced to Darkness to Light in my role as the Public Education Manager for SCAN of Northern Virginia. It was there that I became an Authorized Facilitator and then Certified Instructor. I had to give up that role when I moved to the West Coast, but I didn’t have to give up Darkness to Light. No matter where I am, I am always a facilitator and instructor.
I simply had to rethink how to engage an audience and demonstrate that there is a need for the Stewards of Children® curriculum wherever I am. I set right to work making connections with prevention organizations and child advocacy centers in my new state. Once my foot was in the door, things began to fall in place. People understand the value of Stewards of Children®. Receiving a grant from Kappa Delta, of which I am an alumna, helped, too – one of their national philanthropies is Prevent Child Abuse America. Click here to read my advice for getting grants to support your training initiatives.
The biggest obstacle to starting my new initiative was the fact that I was in a completely new state! But I was not alone: I had Darkness to Light in my corner. It is so important to remember that the work we do is not done in a vacuum and we make the biggest impact when we work together. I kept an open line of communication with Darkness to Light and they brought opportunities to me. I did my best to reciprocate that with providing grant information, connections, and information as we expand our facilitation efforts in California.
I have been here for three years, and in that time, I have led many Stewards of Children® trainings and in-person Facilitator Workshops. At the beginning of the pandemic, as we all wrestled with the question of how to keep training, I tried out a virtual Stewards of Children® session. It was a little bit experimental, but it helped our lead instructor Carol Hogue get an idea of how Darkness to Light could make the switch from in-person trainings to a virtual platform. It also helped the team begin to explore what virtual Facilitator Workshops might look like. Prior to COVID-19, Facilitator workshops were purely in-person events. When the option became available, I was excited to learn to be a Virtual Instructor and have since assisted in numerous Virtual Facilitator Workshops. I have even coordinated a virtual Stewards of Children® in Spanish with help from the Georgia Child Advocacy Center (further proving that I am not alone in my efforts to make waves, even though I’m in California)!
I have led trainings of the additional modules (don’t forget about those!) for a group of homeschool mothers and was invited to participate in a 4-month child sexual abuse prevention academy with NEWS, Aldea, and The Courage Center (in English and Spanish). I was asked to attend the Women in Sports Film Festival that was in the Bay Area and represent Darkness to Light. I was featured on a June 2021 panel during the Foundation for Global Sports See It, Stop It: Tackling Abuse in Amateur Sports conference. These are just a few examples of the surprising opportunities the pandemic has provided for prevention education. The more I engage and look for opportunities, the more opportunities find me.
I can think of a lot of sayings and phrases here: slow and steady wins the race, hard work pays off, never give up, etc. But the most important advice I have is to make authentic connections – with individuals, organizations, neighbors. Plant the seeds and nurture the relationships and you will be rewarded.
Determined to keep kids safe during COVID, Tracy pioneered Virtual Facilitator Workshops, mentoring and motivating Facilitators as they transitioned to the new online training model. Because of her outstanding commitment to supporting Facilitators and developing new prevention initiatives, Tracy is Darkness to Light’s 2021 Certified Instructor of the Year.
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