group of 30 students with matching I-Leap t-shirts

Mannie L. Jackson Illinois Academic Enrichment and Leadership Program (I-LEAP)

Helping students meet their academic and professional goals


I-LEAP provides support to undergraduates enrolled in the College of Applied Health Sciences who are first-generation students, students from underrepresented groups, student athletes, and those recognized by the President Awards Program (PAP) and Educational Opportunities Program (EOP). Through bi-weekly one-on-one counseling, mentorship, workshops, academic skills development, leadership training, and referrals to resources, I-LEAP aims to increase student success at the University of Illinois and within the campus community.



How we do it

Bi-Weekly 1-on-1 counseling

Peer mentoring


Academic Skills Development

Leadership Training

Community Service

“I-LEAP has become my hub of opportunities. I have been able to get involved in so many activities on campus because of it. I have never had to worry about finding opportunities or new experiences because I-LEAP was sending the application forms right into my email.”

-Nicole Alberto

Program Benefits

  • With an average GPA of 3.13, I-LEAP students earn better grades than students outside of the program
  • Participants in the program receive extra guidance that makes the transition to college smooth and successful
  • The I-LEAP Academic Skills Specialist helps students maximize their coursework and achieve their career goals
  • Countless opportunities to develop the leadership skills necessary for a successful career
  • With more than 160 participants, I-LEAP provides students a campus community on their first day of class

Program Eligibility

Students who meet one of the following criteria are eligible to participate in I-LEAP

  • first-generation college student
  • from an underrepresented group
  • student-athletes
  • those recognized by the Educational Opportunites Program or President Awards Program

Students will be informed of their eligibility for the program during the admissions process and need to accept their invitation to the program before arriving on campus.

“It is challenging being a freshman because you are starting over and there are so many unknowns. What makes it more difficult is that you are on campus without your family and friends. I-LEAP made this 40,000+ person campus feel a lot smaller and more personal. The guidance and support I received from I-LEAP has been unbelievable. I have found success, seen growth, and have made lifetime friendships.”

-Sydney Taylor

I-LEAP Staff

April Carter

April Carter, M.Ed.

Senior Program Coordinator

April grew up in Detroit, Michigan. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and a Master of Education degree from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. She has worked at the University of Illinois since 2008. April is committed to helping students learn and grow as they are on their individual collegiate journeys. She believes that learning inside and outside of the classroom go hand in hand. As the Senior Program Coordinator for I-LEAP, she works to provide students with various opportunities that enrich the academic experience as well as help students transform into the student, leader, agent of positive change, and professional they desire to be.

Contact Information

Elizabeth Mason

Elizabeth Mason, M.Ed.

Academic Skills Specialist

Elizabeth is from Lynwood, IL. She is a two-time alumna of the University of Illinois. Her B.A. is in International Studies and she has her M.Ed. in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership. Elizabeth has always been dedicated to promoting academic success. She has been an elementary school teacher and was a graduate advisor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Access and Achievement Program for two years before joining I-LEAP and the College of Applied Health Sciences full time. As the Academic Skills Specialist for I-LEAP, Elizabeth works to create an environment where students feel they can achieve their academic, personal, and professional goals.

Contact Information
headshot of Mannie Jackson

The Founder: Mannie Jackson

Class of 1960

The Illinois Academic Enrichment & Leadership Program (I-Leap) was founded by Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Mannie L. Jackson. Mannie is currently the President and Chairman of Boxcar Holdings, an author and the owner of the Harlem Globe Trotters. Mannie is an alumnus of the College of Applied Health Sciences and is a former star Fighting Illini Basketball Player (1957-60).

As featured in “The Ripple Effect” a documentary shown on the Big Ten Network, Fighting Illini legend Mannie Jackson and family donated $2 million to create the Mannie L. Jackson Illinois Academic Enrichment and Leadership Program (I-LEAP) in the College of Applied Health Sciences on the Urbana-Champaign campus. The I-LEAP Program has supported student scholars since 2007.

By the Numbers

graph showing ethnic breakdown of ileap students 26% female, 26% malegraph showing ethnic breakdown of ileap students