LEAP (Language Empowers All People) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to research-driven language and literacy development in low income communities. LEAP’s programs are proven to accelerate self-confidence and fulfillment in children, parents, and educators.

LEAP believes if you can speak, write and communicate effectively, you command the most important tools to achieve your life goals. LEAP believes that words are tools…to read, think, speak, imagine, cooperate, problem solve, and, ultimately, empower.


In 1986, LEAP’s Founder and Executive Director, Catherine Gottfred, volunteered her services as a speech pathologist with children in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood. Her work revealed that youth in this community faced a major language gap with significant academic and social consequences. Children and young adults were not properly equipped to start or be successful in school, or to deal with the many emotional challenges presented by their socioeconomic environment.

LEAP was soon born to bridge this learning gap and give under-served children and teens an opportunity to increase their quality of life. After first working with the children themselves, Dr. Gottfred and her colleague, John Lybolt, Ph.D., decided to expand LEAP’s impact. Dr. Gottfred and Dr. Lybolt began training other teachers, tutors, and educators how to engage students in carefully structured lessons and activities that would cultivate oral and written language skills.

Thirty years later, LEAP continues to carry out its mission in low-resource classrooms across Chicago. With a highly experienced staff representing decades of collective experience, LEAP has reached tens of thousands of teachers and low-resource students and families through cutting-edge language and literacy development programs, impacting their clients’ professional and personal livelihoods.