The 21st annual Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) will return to Troy University June 2-6.
The five-day event – sponsored by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services – seeks to equip high school students with disabilities with valuable leadership skills through sessions on self-esteem, career exploration, technology, independent living, and etiquette.
YLF Coordinator Karen Jenkins said the week leads to positive changes in the participants.
“We have a lot of delegates who come to YLF, and they have never been away from home, and they have never worked,” she said. “One of our main goals is to expose them to different opportunities and increase their knowledge and their skills so that they will be able to successfully transition from high school into adulthood.”
Other sponsors include the Alabama Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Troy University.
YLF delegates are chosen through a statewide search for students displaying leadership potential. Those selected represent the state’s demographics in terms of geography, gender, ethnicity and type of disability. To be eligible, an individual must be a high school junior or senior with a disability who is between 17 and 21 years old.
Dr. Joel Willis, associate professor in TROY’s Counseling, Rehabilitation and Interpreter Training Department, said the forum provides students with many opportunities that help prepare them for success in the future.
“Once the forum begins, delegates attend sessions on self-advocacy, independent living, career exploration, healthcare transitioning, and assistive technology, as well as developing a personal leadership plan and a self-directed search,” Willis said. “The program provides delegates with the tools and information needed for them to go back to their homes, schools and communities to face challenges that may arise, to know they can become employed, live independently and be successful contributing adults in society.”
On June 5, the participants will travel to Montgomery to meet Gov. Kay Ivey and other state leaders. The trip will also include a tour of the Capitol and a mentor luncheon, where delegates will interact with and get advice from successful adults with disabilities.
YLF won’t be all work for the delegates. To develop their social skills, they will be attending a Montgomery Biscuits game and taking part in a swim party, a dance and a talent show. A graduation ceremony will be held on June 6 in the Trojan Center Ballrooms on the Troy Campus.
The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services is the state agency whose mission is to enable Alabama’s children and adults with disabilities to achieve their maximum potential.