LEAP Scholars Celebrated

Learn Engage Achieve Program, News

Lee University recently held a special luncheon celebrating LEAP (Learn, Engage, Achieve Program)/TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) graduating class of 2022. Thirty-four LEAP scholars graduating this month were recognized at this event for their success.

“These LEAP students have achieved a major accomplishment,” said Dr. Angela Waltrip, director of LEAP. “Not only are they receiving degrees and will be highly qualified to enter the workforce and/or graduate school, but they have been fully engaged in the requirements of our program. These students have met with coaches monthly to learn about academic success, financial and economic literacy, personal development, and career and graduate school preparation. They have withstood the challenges of hybrid learning during COVID and still served as peer leaders and tutors for up-and-coming students. I am extremely proud of these young men and women. This is an extraordinary group of future leaders.”

Dr. Jerome Hammond, associate professor of human development at Lee, addressed the graduates, challenging them to “build community” in their respective fields and hometowns.

During the luncheon, three LEAP graduates were awarded the Learn, Engage, and Achieve awards, which signify excellence during the student’s time as a LEAP scholar.

The Learn Award goes to Samuel Gruber, a math major with minors in computer and engineering science from Cleveland, Tennessee. This award is dedicated to the LEAP individual who is drawn to the process of learning and shows growth in academics as well as all other categories of the LEAP program to include career exploration, personal development, and financial and economic literacy.

Gruber has been a LEAP math tutor, a physics tutor, math sciences student worker, an iMass Scholar and mentor, and a member of Phi Eta Sigma. He received the Mathematical Sciences Award and was nominated for the F.J. Lee Award. Gruber plans to attend graduate school in the fall to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Haley Land received the Engage Award, which is given to the LEAP individual who fully engages in curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities. A nursing major from Athens, Tennessee, Land was a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, treasurer for the Student Nurse Association, and a peer mentor for LEAP. After graduating, Land will work as a Critical Care nurse at Centennial Hospital in Nashville. She hopes to gather skills within this unit to aid in caring for women and children in the future.

The Achieve Award, given to the LEAP scholar who strives to achieve both personal and academic goals, was awarded to Christina Endara, a pre-professional biology major from Kennesaw, Georgia. This award is distinct from the Learn Award in that it focuses more on the student’s achievements than the process of achieving their goals.

Endara has been a peer leader, secretary of Alpha Epsilon Delta, a McNair scholar, a tutor, a LEAP peer mentor, and a volunteer at the Good Samaritan Clinic. This fall, she will start her PhD in neuroscience at the University of Georgia and will finish her application to medical school. Endara plans to obtain her MD/PhD in hopes of furthering the scientific field with research and patient-centered care.

The 34 LEAP graduates represent 17 majors across campus and come from various states including Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

“It is always exciting to celebrate all of our LEAP students who have persisted and achieved their goal of attainting a baccalaureate degree,” said Dr. Suzanne Holt, assistant vice president for Student Success and Retention. “This is an exceptional group of students, many of whom are graduating with honors, even as recipients of their department award.”

Funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, LEAP is a TRIO SSS program and currently serves 140 first-generation or underrepresented students at Lee each year who meet the eligibility criteria. The program provides individual success coaching, peer mentors, direct student aid, financial aid counseling, financial literacy education, cultural and academic enrichment opportunities, and other personalized services according to individual students’ needs.

For more information about LEAP, visit or email

The May 2022 LEAP graduates and LEAP staff are pictured here during the graduate luncheon with Dr. Jerome Hammond, far left, and Dr. Suzanne Holt and Dr. Angela Waltrip, far right.
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