Lead4Life, Inc. (L4L) was founded in 2008 in an effort to reduce the number of youth entering the juvenile justice system, the number of out-of-home placements, and the youth recidivism rate. L4L’s programs are developed utilizing restorative practices, strength-based and Positive Youth Development models. These programs help youth and their families address negative behaviors that all too often result in involvement with our criminal justice system.
L4L staff, mentors, and volunteers work together to empower individuals to develop positive life, social and competency skills, enabling them to become productive community members. Services such as alternative to detention programs, diversion, and grassroots mentoring are provided both in the community and in youth detention facilities.
Lead4Life is a community-based 501 (c)(3) nonprofit that serves Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
Jennifer Gauthier “Ms. Jen” is the Founder and Executive Director of Lead4Life, Inc. Ms. Gauthier’s life experiences aren’t a prerequisite for working with troubled teens. However, Ms. Gauthier brings both life experience and professional training to her work of empowering young people and young adults in the criminal justice system.
Gauthier graduated from Springfield College with a Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s of Social Work. As a child, Gauthier overcame the challenges of domestic violence and teen pregnancy. As an adult, Gauthier turned homelessness into financial independence.
Gauthier has found her voice in her vocation. She has ample experience working with high risk youth and their families. She has a natural passion to empower and believe in the power of young men and women; and to make positive changes in their daily living. She has empathy and truly understands where many youth are in life.
Gauthier is committed to working with youth and adults. She hopes her challenges and victories will help at least one person.
Frederick County Office for Children and Families
MC Collaboration Council
I’m not a regular member, but just by sitting here, I can tell that this group is different from all the other groups I’ve been in. In those groups, they help because they’re getting paid. They don’t really care. But, this group – you can feel the love."
People used to call me heartless. I could be mean. I didn’t care about other people. But L4L and Ms. Jen opened their arms. She doesn’t judge. This program makes me become a better person. It makes me want to help other people. You see things differently. It used to be all about me. Now, I care about how I think about people. I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I put it in a nicer way."
The first time I came to the group, I came late. I’m thinking, ‘I don’t care about this.’ But, then after a while, I got closer to Ms. Jen. Me and her got together, and we became close. It just made me realize that in life, it’s not about giving up. It’s about pushing yourself. I was, like, a junior when I came here. When I was in 12th grade, I started getting my grades up. I became an Honor Roll student, I got a job and everything. Everything was going well for me. If Ms. Jen can put up with us and all we’ve done in life, I believe that I can make a change in life. I chose a major to be a social worker to help others. Ms. Jen led me to become someone who can help others."
I want to express my deep appreciation for the work that the Lead4Life program has done for my family, and namely for my precious 15-year old daughter. My experience with the Lead4Life team has been nothing short of a great experience. During the time-frame of August 2012 to mid-October 2012, I found myself completely at a loss and deeply troubled with my daughter’s behavior, as she was on a path of destruction. I was completely at a loss and feeling like I had nowhere to turn for answers. I was starting to become hopeless, as I was on the brink of having to send her away. I am truly thankful to the Lead4Life program and Kelsey…for everything they have done. It is greatly appreciated, and has made a tremendous difference in our lives. I can really see it in my daughter."
Lead4Life has helped not only my child, but my family. They worked with us to make sure our family received the needed community-based programs. They went above and beyond to get us food, clothing, and needed house items. My family is extremely grateful. "