Youth Leadership Forum
"Empowering Young Leaders for the 21st Century"
The YLF-VA program seeks to empower young people with disabilities to further develop their leadership skills. Students, serving as Delegates from communities throughout Virginia, participate in a wide range of activities and learning experiences during the four day Youth Leadership Forum set on a university campus. Click on any section below to expand more information, links and forms.
The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (VBPD) seeks students from across Virginia to serve as delegates to its Youth Leadership Forum (YLF-VA). Rising high school juniors and seniors with a disability who want to become leaders in their schools and communities are strongly encouraged to apply for the honor of serving as a YLF delegate.
Student delegates demonstrate:
- Acceptance of and interest in diversity
- An interest in developing their leadership skills and a plan for their future
- A desire to share their thoughts and opinions
The five day YLF program is held on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond each July. Twenty-five Virginia high school students with disabilities are selected each spring to receive full scholarships to participate in this leadership development program.
Recruitment for Youth Leadership Forum 2013 (YLF13) has closed. To receive more information about the application process and Youth Leadership Forum 2014 (YLF14), contact Kara.White@vbpd.virginia.gov or 800-846-4464.
Youth Leadership Forum (YLF)
July 29 to August 2, 2013 at Virginia Commonwealth University
To receive more information about the application process, contact Kara.White@vbpd.virginia.gov or 804-786-3441.
The YLF program, operated by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, seeks to develop leadership skills in young people with disabilities. Based on the California model of youth leadership development, YLF recruits rising high school juniors and seniors with disabilities who have demonstrated leadership potential and motivation.
What are the eligibility requirements?
To be eligible for the 2013 YLF, the student must:
- reside in Virginia
- have a disability (as defined by the Americans with Disability Act)
- be in 10th or 11th grade as of Dec. 15, 2012 (if in a non-graded program, returning to high school for at least one year)
- have demonstrated leadership potential in his/her school and community
How are delegates selected for the YLF?
- Twenty-five students are selected as YLF Delegates in a competitive application process administered statewide.
- All applications are reviewed for compliance with application procedures. Following a screening and selection process, semi-finalists are contacted by phone to arrange a personal interview. Finalists selected to attend the forum are notified by letter.
- All YLF expenses are paid by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, including lodging, food, materials, and individual accommodations, such as sign language interpreters and personal care assistants.
- Applications for the 2013 YLF must be received by 5pm, March 29, 2013.
What happens at the Youth Leadership Forum?
- During the Forum, Delegates participate in career and life goal identification activities, leadership skill development, social skills enhancement, and an unforgettable experience interacting with enthusiastic peers and successful role models.
- Throughout the week, small working groups explore personal leadership and career plans.
- Guest speakers address such topics as disability rights laws, innovations in technology, and community resources.
- A guided tour of the Capitol involves interaction with government officials and the delivery of testimony during a mock legislative hearing.
What happens after the YLF?
- After the YLF alumni return to their school and community and demonstrate acquired skills.
- They share their YLF experience with others and continue to set and accomplish goals.
- Graduates are encouraged to keep in touch with fellow graduates and to network with others.
- Graduates help to recruit new Student Delegates and often apply to return as staff.
The YLF-VA program seeks to empower young people with disabilities to further develop their leadership skills. Students, serving as Delegates from communities throughout Virginia, participate in a wide range of activities and learning experiences during the four day Youth Leadership Forum set on a university campus.
The YLF-VA curriculum includes training and development of individual career and life-goals, leadership skills, social skills, and self-esteem. Delegates benefit from sharing the experience of an energetic and socially enriched environment with other delegates, distinguished guests, mentors, and highly motivated volunteer staff.
- Small working groups to explore and develop self-awareness profiles, personal leadership goals, career and academic plans.
- Diverse activities including educational, social, artistic, athletic and recreational events that demonstrate to young people the joy of leading a well-rounded life.
- Guest speakers and faculty that address issues such as disability rights laws, innovations in technology, use of assistive technology, employment opportunities, community volunteerism, advocacy and legislative opportunities in the Commonwealth.
- Interaction with guest speakers and staff-people with disabilities from the private and public sector who have successful careers and/or businesses and who have maximized their talents and serve as role models.
- Field trip to the State Capitol that provides an opportunity to interact with high-level elected officials in Virginia's state government.
Student Delegates are recruited statewide through a competitive application and interview process. Application requirements include written references and in-person interviews.
Eligible candidates for the YLF-VA must:
- Reside in Virginia
- Have a disability (as defined by the Americans with Disability Act)
- Be a rising high school Junior or Senior (or, if in a non-graded program, the student must be returning to high school for at least one more year)
- Be highly motivated and
- Have demonstrated leadership potential
Recruitment begins each January for Student Delegates who are interested in attending YLF the following July. The application review and selection process begins in April. In order to be considered, complete applications must be submitted by the deadline date, the last business day in March.
Recruitment strategies incorporate criteria that, while being competitive, enable students to attend the Forum who might otherwise not have the opportunity for leadership development and who demonstrate potential and desire to become future leaders. Recruitment and selection strategies include procedures and outreach that demonstrate full commitment to including students with developmental disabilities as well as other disabilities.
The YLF-VA depends on a committed network of volunteers. The volunteers are involved in all aspects of assuring a successful experience for the Delegates including planning and preparation, delegate recruitment and selection, serving as YLF-VA staff, speakers, panel members, mentors, or dorm parents, and assisting with travel and logistics. Volunteers come from a variety of diverse areas including directly from the community, service agencies and organizations, YLF-VA Delegate Alumni, Partners in Policymaking Alumni and other organizations.
- Assist with Student Delegate recruitment and selection
- Plan and prepare activities and materials
- Assist with travel and logistics and
- Serve as speakers, panel members, mentors, or dorm parents
For more information, please contact:
Kara White, YLF Program Assistant
Teri Barker, YLF Program Manager
Virginia Board for People with Disabilities / YLF
1100 Bank St, 7th Fl
Richmond, VA 23219
Adam Amick ('07)
The Virginia Board of Education appointed Adam to a three year term to the State Special Education Advisory Committee, as a representative for persons with disabilities.
Adam Brakman ('11)
Adam helped other CNU students make blankets for underprivileged children in Newport News; he paid for his first semester at Christopher Newport University (in part with a $400 check from a scholarship program run by his church). He took his learner’s permit test and passed! Adam has also been busy kayaking with his dad (five miles each way to the James River bridge from his neighborhood).
Aaron Buncher ('09)
Aaron helped with swimming lessons and other activities at a camp for children with Autism. It was so much fun, especially knowing I made a difference. He did a presentation on Tourette Syndrome in front of an audience of 30-35 students, parents, and school administrators at Mountain View High School in Stafford County, VA. The audience asked really great questions and we all became more knowledgeable about Tourette Syndrome. He participated in a day of training activities to become a peer counselor at his high school, Mills Godwin. It was really fun. I’m looking forward to getting more involved as a peer helper this year.
Tabitha Copeland (’12)
Tabitha had fun taking senior pictures…especially her! The camera loves her! She was also voted secretary of FCCLA, an organization of her Life Planning class. Tabitha has a date to the prom!
Liam Cornwall ('09)
Liam wrote a letter to local Safeway Store manager and visited the store to talk with employees about MD through Aisles of Smiles MDA. Liam is now a licensed driver! He received training through Woodrow Wilson Rehab Center. While there, he was filmed entering and exiting an adaptive vehicle. This past September, Liam performed the role of junior host for the Jerry Lewis MD Telethon at Galludet University. He has demonstrated (and had numerous inquiries). about an adaptive device, he and a friend created, that allows him to have easy access to the backpack on his power chair.
Annie Downing (’12)
Annie sent her new principal an email about national Disability History Awareness Month and said she’d like to have fun facts about disability on the morning announcements during October. Annie worked with Jack Brandt and Marianne Moore to plan a meeting for a new project. She also spoke at the September meeting of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (VBPD) about her experiences in YLF.
Caroline Elgin ('09)
Caroline was the only person with a disability to compete in the VA State Fair’s 4H Dog Show. Video of her competing with loyal companion, Sajen, can be seen on You Tube. She volunteered to help young children with disabilities in the Mary’s Family Respite Program. She represented Canine Companion for Independence at the Future Quest event at George Mason University-answering questions about service dogs. She actively participates in 4H, FFA, and FCCLA clubs. Following up on her testimony about the inaccessibility of her hometown (at the mock YLF hearing this past summer), she and her Mom have filed an ADA complaint with the DOJ against the County of Fauquier and the town of Warrenton. Excellent!!
Caroline entered into a "How Dogs Change Lives" contest at dogschangelives.org and asked YLF staff to pass the word on to YLF alumni and others.
Caroline graduated from High School in June 2011, and started classes this summer at The Art Institute of Northern Virginia, where she is majoring in Graphic Design. She received a grant from the LEAP program to purchase a new MacBook Pro to take with her, as well as tuition grants from The Art Institute Merit Award and The Plains Community League. Just recently, in August, she was very honored to be one of 3 applicants from over 180 to be selected for a tuition award from the Howard Aslinger Foundation. This foundation was started two years ago to help students with physical disabilities attend college (www.howardaslingerfoundation.org). Mr. Aslinger, who had polio, said "it’s not a handicap, it is an inconvenience", and was very active in his community, as is Caroline.
Grace Feazelle ('09)
Before graduating from Princess Anne High School this past June 17th, Grace mentored peers who needed extra help, showed new students around the school and helped with fundraising. As a result of her work, she got to know a lot of teachers better. She also began volunteering at a home for people with disabilities and has been working there for the past three months.
She has begun to take independent living classes at her local CIL in Virginia Beach. While taking classes there, she is looking for opportunities to volunteer in the office and lead classes. She is working with a DRS counselor to get into a program at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center. Grace also has plans to get her GED.
Grace established a Facebook account to stay in touch with YLF friends and staff. She wrote a Thank You letter to the board of VBPD which was read at their September board meeting. She shared what she learned at YLF with staff from Phone A Home and St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. They would like her to return and share with others. Prior to becoming a YLF Delegate, Grace created a communication system for a friend, who had no dependable way to communicate, based on choices and using her eyes to indicate selection. Grace worked with a classmate to help her student ID number during a vocational lesson.
Justin Gantz ('06)
Justin completed an apprenticeship program and is now a certified mechanic.
Justin bought a condo in June 2011 and is successfully living on his own and doing great.
Justin George ('11)
Justin coordinated the National Night Out-Block Party in his Chesterfield neighborhood. He sent an early invitation to his Board of Supervisors and they accepted his request.
Justin helped set up and run an Olympic event at his school, The Faison School for Autism, in early July.
I attended a planning meeting as a youth leader for the upcoming I’m Determined Youth Summit. I was voted in as a member for another amateur radio group, A.R.C.A (Amateur Radio Communications Auxiliary) where I will volunteer.
Blake Kelmar ('09)
Blake was accepted to Marshall University (his 1st and only choice). He earned a 3.1 GPA and 18 on the ACT test. He is so happy that he was accepted at Marshall. Wish him luck!
William Kirchhoff ('11)
Went snorkeling in Costa Rica on the 20th of August
Will recently ran a 5k at Pony Pasture in 19:36 and in early July, he ran a 7.4k in Brandermill in 32:13.
Doniella Kissinger ('11)
I was talking to my Transition Coordinator at my school on September 21, 2011 about YLF and I'm Determined and I told him I graduated from YLF this past summer and that I am a leader in I'm Determined. He asked me if I would go to the 9th and 10th Grade English Special education Classes and talk to them about YLF and I'm Determined in the near future. Of course I said yes and I have already started making a Powerpoint for my presentation.
On September 21, 2011 I signed up to be a Lunch Buddy with an autistic gentleman. I get to have lunch with him every Green Day which is every other day.
Emily LeSueur (’12)
Emily received an Echo smart pen to help her take notes in class. It was one of the goals on her PLP. She also passed her Algebra SOL (the first math SOL she has passed since 5th grade). Emily took control of her IEP meeting and also met with the new school nurse, bringing up her medical and school needs—another goal on her Personal Leadership Plan! She has also volunteered to help out with the sound system at her church.
Joey McGeary ('09)
Joey enjoys volunteering every Sunday to work with the children’s ministry of his church, Capitol Church in Arlington. He also enjoyed volunteering as a camp counselor to elementary children this past summer.
Joey enjoyed helping out at the TJ Community Center and asking people to fill out a survey. He went door to door handing out campaign literature for House of Delegate candidate, Eric Brescia. He actively participated in the Semi-Annual Market Fair (Claude Moore Memorial Farm), Friends of the Library Book sale (Arlington Central Library), and CherryDale Baptist Church’s Fall Fun Festival. He helped teach and supervise pre-schoolers on Sundays at Capitol Life Church. And during November elections, he thanked voters, handed out “I Voted” stickers and assisted election officials.
Joey continues to demonstrate his leadership by volunteering in community activities such as food preparation for Market Fair Colonial Program, by connecting with the Chamber of Commerce through a leadership program, by assistant teaching Sunday School to his church's pre-schoolers, and by getting involved in the election process at his local precinct.
Dan McMahon (’12)
Dan obtained a Kindle to help him enjoy reading, and he also took a placement test at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College so he could take College Composition as a senior in high school. Some of his highest scores were on reading and writing (typically his weakest testing areas), and his focus has led to acceptance at Longwood University! Dan was excited at YLF that he had been accepted into UVA-Wise but now Longwood is his top choice followed by Christopher Newport University. Dan took steps to accomplish a goal on his PLP when he talked with the commissioner of the Ashland Youth Association (a local recreational basketball league) and signed up to coach. He also spoke at the VBPD Board meeting in September 2012.
Christian Metzler ('11)
Made his HS soccer team. Way to go Christian!
I was selected as Captain of the Varsity Soccer team at my high school. My teammates voted me into this position after two weeks of practice.
Steve Phillips ('07)
Steve has been busy completing community service hours—64 at the Youth Leadership Forum—and he’s been recognized in a book published by Mike Patrick entitled “I Still Believe in Tomorrow.” Steve also wrote and presented a term paper on Gaining Sociological Acceptance for People with Disabilities and began looking for a new personal aid. Steve wrote a recruitment ad for NOVA Power Soccer for the NOVA Community College Newsletter. He attended a transfer information session at George Mason University for the Bachelor of Individualized Study (BIS) program.
Kennedy Rose (’12)
Kennedy went to Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center and had a driving evaluation done by a company in Pennsylvania. She was able to drive a van controlled completely by a joist stick. She was recommended for drivers training, plans to go for three weeks of training in PA, get her license and an equipped van soon. Kennedy also decided to do early admission for college and has submitted all of her applications!
Violet Strawderman ('11)
I volunteered at the Children's Hospital for the King's Daughters in the NICU, July 25-August 4. On September 14, I gave a speech to the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities about my wonderful time at YLF. I have been invited by Carol Lewin to give another speech for a group she is associated with. I also collected two business cards and did some networking. For the first time, my school is participating in Disability History and Awareness month…I’m getting it started!
Caroline Tobe ('11)
Is going to be a Student Ambassador at her school. She will give announcements and work at the School Open House and other things to help recruit students for her high school. Learn, Empower, Achieve, Demonstrate…LEAD
Michael Williams ('11)
Volunteered at freshmen orientation at school by handing out textbook to over 150 freshmen and on registration day by giving textbooks to over 500 students
Got a 98 on my AP Government summer assignment and a 95 on my AP Literature summer assignment. Awesome Michael!
Michael earned his driver's license! He also achieved his PLP goal of acquiring a Smartpen to use at school.
I dressed up in a dragon costume with a seat belt on to promote traffic safety on 9/24/11.
- Karlian Achenie, Blacksburg
- Justin Bradley, Chesterfield
- Tabitha Copeland, Suffolk
- Dontavious Culp, Newport News
- Annie Downing, Williamsburg
- Moyra Gautney, Midlothian
- Rachelle Hope, Sandy Hook
- Kalen Joy, Virginia Beach
- Emily LeSueur, Fork Union
- Eduardo Martin, Gainesville
- Daniel McMahon, Glen Allen
- Anna Montaperto, Maidens
- Kimberly Poff, Roanoke
- Olivia Price, Covington
- Kennedy Rose, Marion
- Anise Saunders, Richmond
- Shayla Smith, Norfolk
- Amy Stone, Ashburn
- Dondre Tucker, Powhatan
- Gavin Watkins, Manassas
- Shea Zatkulak, Powhatan
Learn Today, Lead Tomorrow!