Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council
Youth Leadership Forum Brochure

What is the Youth Leadership Forum?

The Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) is a unique program designed to provide leadership training to high school juniors and seniors with disabilities. Delegates representing their communities come together at a week-long event at a university campus to cultivate leadership skills, meet with government officials and explore career options.

The first YLF was developed in 1992 by the California Governor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, encourages the establishment of this initiative by individual states.

Why is YLF only for Students with Disabilities?

It is critical that students with disabilities who are transitioning from school to work learn to identify themselves with pride, as individuals and as members of the community. YLF offers students with common challenges and experiences the opportunity to learn from each other in a framework of history and an atmosphere of encouragement.

Delegates have access to vital resources including assistive technology and community support systems. Successful individuals with disabilities serve as role models in helping the students realize their ability, right and obligation to pursue meaningful employment and contribute to society.

How Are YLF Delegates Selected?

Delegates to the Oklahoma Youth Leadership Forum are rising high school juniors and seniors with disabilities chosen through a statewide competition that seeks students who have leadership potential. Students submit an application form, an essay, and letters of recommendation. Selection committee members review applications and choose the delegates.

The delegates are representatives of Oklahoma in terms of geography, gender, economic status, ethnicity, and types of disabilities.

What Happens At YLF?

YLF is an intense educational and motivational schedule of events held annually on a university campus. Delegates, working in small groups, develop personal leadership plans and identify the resources necessary to achieve their goals. Social and recreational activities are included as part of the goal to teach students about leading a well-rounded life.

Guest speakers address topics such as disability rights laws, innovations in technology, and resources at all levels. Delegates meet interesting leaders and professionals in Oklahoma, and spend a day at the state capitol interacting with government officials.

The key to YLF is leadership by example. Adults with disabilities who have traveled the same path these students are facing serve as mentors and staff, and share information with each other. Volunteers, some with and some without disabilities, help to make the program a success.

After YLF, alumni take with them an obligation to follow through with the goals outlined in personal leadership plans they have written. Follow-up activities such as advocacy training can

After YLF, alumni take with them an obligation to follow through with the goals outlined in personal leadership plans they have written. Follow up activities such as advocacy training can also be established to continue networking activities. YLF alumni are encouraged to return as volunteers and staff after their high school years.

Is There a Cost for Delegates to Attend?

All costs, including transportation, are paid by the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council. The YLF enables youth with disabilities to grow personally, socially and academically, and to fulfill their potential in their work and lives. No student should be denied this opportunity.

How Can I Participate in YLF?

For a delegate application form or more information about becoming a staff member, volunteer or sponsor, contact the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council, at Voice/TDD (405) 521-4984, Toll-free (800) 836-4470, or Fax (405) 521-4910.