The Garden State Leaders Program

The Garden State Leaders Program is a free, six-month long leadership and advocacy training program for NJ residents with lived experience of homelessness and poverty. Throughout the program we and our partners help participants learn to effectively tell their stories and further their advocacy goals. Each session focuses on a different topic such as effectively telling your story, working with the media, and more. Typically one session is held at the NJ State House in Trenton, with the opportunity to meet with legislators and to gain a better understanding of the legislative process in our state.


The goal is to help build the skills of people with lived experience of poverty to take on influential roles on issues pertinent to their lives and to connect them to advocacy opportunities throughout the state. These leadership roles include serving as Board of Trustees members of our own organizations as well as partner organizations in our networks. We’ve received significant positive feedback from our graduates. Several have noted that, in addition to helping them advocate for important causes, the program has helped them obtain employment, advance in their careers, and improve their social networks. We have also heard sentiments from many of New Jersey’s advocates, non-profit leaders, and elected officials on how valuable our leaders’ perspective has been toward making an impact on policies affecting populations experiencing poverty.

The next Garden State Leaders program is scheduled for Fall 2020 for the first time online.  If you're interested in participating, please reach out to Kate Leahy at or Renee Koubiadis at

Program Highlights:


  • Learn how to advocate and tell your own story to effect change on public policies that matter to you
  • Work closely with other advocates and key non-profit leaders throughout the state.
  • Interact with local and state government officials
  • Learn how to navigate county government and the NJ State House
  • Free to attend

Testimonials from our Garden State Leaders:

   “Excellent program! Highly recommend to any advocate. Most helpful program I have ever been involved in. Knowledge is very empowering and I feel blessed to share my experience to advocate and help others. Thank you all!"

   "This program changed me tremendously. Advocating and serving others has become my life's purpose. I reached another chance for change and as fate would have it made the right choice. I know I can be a good advocate.  It comes from somewhere deep inside us. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity and the experience."

   "The Garden State Leaders Program has had such a positive influence in my life in so many ways.  I have always felt that I had potential, I was just completely in doubt as to what I felt confident in applying it to.  I knew I had an important personal story based on my life experiences that many people identified with and respected.  However, I was not educated on how to present my story in a manner for which it could be utilized as a resource tool of effectiveness.  The Garden State Leaders Program has broadened my horizons.  I am grateful, and honored to be an alumni of the program.  I have already started using the lessons and skilled trades learned in the program to engage with members of my local community."

   "It was a wonderful experience.  Thank you for providing this."

Garden State Leaders is a partnership between:


© Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey (APN)
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