Family Life, Health, Parenting, Shopping & Services

Spotlight – Take the Lead NOLA

February 1, 2022

LaRita Francois, the founder of the non-profit organization Take the Lead NOLA, is the picture of perseverance.

  As a young adult and the eldest of her siblings, she was at a severe disadvantage due to her rough homelife. Her parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol, she was homeless, and she was suffering from depression. However, she refused to let these setbacks define her life.

To build herself up, she had to work hard and overcome many challenges, including a lack of support and resources. She graduated from the University of Phoenix with a bachelor’s degree of Science in Human Services and a master’s degree in Business Administration, and she also became a Human Services Board Certified Practitioner. Her life experiences are what prompted her to found Take the Lead NOLA and let it be the light in a community where many stories were like hers.

“There were no resources for me to get help getting into secondary school. I wanted to change that. After I graduated from college, I wanted to reach out and help others without resources,” explains Francois.

Take the Lead NOLA’s mission is to empower the youth with access to better opportunities and provide assistance to disadvantaged people needing rehabilitation services to build successful careers. Reaching out across nine parishes and into Baton Rouge, LaRita and her team are working hard to change the trajectory of many lives.

With the foundation’s help, at-risk youth now have access to initiatives like the “New Beginnings Initiative.” a program for juvenile offenders aged 16 to 21 who need help entering or reentering the workforce. The LIFE program was formed to help build social and interpersonal skills for everyday life while boosting self-confidence, teaching critical thinking skills, and fostering independence. The Youth Empowerment Series or YES program was created to give young women access to comprehensive sex education. 

Additionally, they offer community rehabilitation with a focus on people with disabilities through vocational rehab. Take the Lead NOLA provides resources to help create effective resumes, build interview skills, and provide access to opportunities like paid internships and entry-level jobs.

In the future, LaRita plans to expand Take the Lead NOLA’s influence by offering support to more parishes and by opening an education center. There, they would offer pathways to help jumpstart careers in healthcare and more through short-term certification programs. This facility would also be a hub of resources for people seeking job and facility training. While this effort will take some time to complete, Take the Lead NOLA plans to host plenty of job-centered events in the near future. In honor of National Disability Awareness month in October, they plan to have a job fair to give people with disabilities access to a range of new and exciting opportunities. 

With 15 served schools, 50 partnerships and counting, and over 500 families aided, Take the Lead NOLA’s growth and impact can be seen across the state. LaRita hopes to further expand her team’s reach. To properly evaluate and meet the needs of vulnerable communities, they need the help of the public and Louisiana businesses.

“Over the years, the best way to depict or even describe the growth of Take the Lead NOLA is by a quote that came to me many years ago as I was on this journey, ‘It’s not about thinking outside the box but realizing there is no box,’” shares Francois, “I believe that my life’s purpose is to educate, enrich and empower vulnerable populations to take the lead and unlock their potential by providing work readiness training and job placement.”

Are you interested in getting involved?

Visit to learn more about giving back to your community by volunteering, donating, or partnering with the organization.

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