July 11, 2003 | Carol Marin, Chicago Tribune

More than just a dance for Manley Career Academy students

A change-agent rather than a teacher, Leff started a program called Umoja, the Swahili word for unity. With Flanagan's support, Leff began homework clubs, chess games at lunch, girls' and boys' writing clubs.

Umoja partnered with the teachers at Manley and introduced students to business leaders and professional people.

Kids, who in some cases had never even been downtown, were being taken by Leff on their first plane rides to college campuses around the country, places like Clark Atlanta, Alabama State and the University of Illinois.

At a time when education in America is under fire, when the federal No Child Left Behind legislation still threatens to leave too many kids behind, and while President Bush and Congress approve billions of dollars in tax cuts as states struggle to find money for education, this little program called Umoja should grab our attention.

Why? Because Umoja works.

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