ADRS, delegates prep for 17th YLF

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Delegates are set to arrive for the 17th annual Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) in Troy, May 31 through June 4.

Each year, the event better equips high school juniors and seniors with disabilities to take charge of their own lives through self-esteem, self-advocacy, and independent living skills.

With 38 delegates expected to attend, the 2015 forum will be the biggest YLF yet, said Karen Jenkins, YLF coordinator.

“We are really excited,” she said. “Each year, YLF provides an opportunity unlike any other for young people with disabilities, and this year is no different. We have a fantastic week planned.”

At the heart of YLF’s development of advocacy and independent living skills is the delegate’s composition of a Personal Leadership Plan (PLP). The PLP functions as a road map and assists delegates in becoming leaders in their communities. Fun activities are also interspersed throughout the week, including a scavenger hunt, a trip to Camp Butter & Egg, a talent show, and a dance.

While the majority of the forum’s activities take place in Troy, the group also spends a full day in Montgomery to tour the Capitol and learn about state government. While in Montgomery, delegates also get an opportunity to visit with successful adults with disabilities at the Angeline Pinckard Mentor Luncheon.

Minnie K. Walker, current president of the Mobile Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), will serve as this year’s honored guest speaker at the mentor luncheon. Walker previously served as national president of the NFB.

YLF delegates are selected through a statewide competition that seeks students with disabilities who have leadership potential. The group reflects the state’s demographic makeup in terms of geography, gender, ethnicity, and types of disabilities. To be eligible to participate, students must be a junior or senior in high school, be between 17 and 21 years of age, and have a disability.

Each year’s event helps shape high school students with disabilities through sessions on self-esteem, self-advocacy, career choice, independent living options, and leadership.

“It takes many meetings and much preparation to host this event every year,” Jenkins said, “but witnessing the transformation these delegates undergo over the week is such a positive experience. We’re empowering youth to become involved in all aspects of society, and seeing that happen makes you realize just how meaningful all of the preparation really is.”

YLF is a program of ADRS. Troy University provides the facilities and other logistical support for the event. Additional support for this year’s forum is being provided by the Alabama Department of Education, the Alabama Department of Mental Health, and the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities.

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