We are proud to host the 2020 Massachusetts Youth Leadership Forum. The Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) is an overnight conference for youth and young adults with disabilities ages 16 to 25 held annually in Massachusetts and other states across the country. YLF participants build leadership skills and leave better prepared for future employment, higher education, and independent living. This year’s YLF will take place from June 23rd through June 25th at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA. The three-day forum is free to attend.
This event provides youth with an atmosphere of encouragement and offers peers with common challenges and experiences the opportunity to lead and learn from one another. Examples abound of people with disabilities transitioning into adulthood as proud individuals and members of an accomplished disability community.
YLF Delegates stay overnight at the Bridgewater State University dorms and spend their days in both small and large group discussions and workshops on topics such as self-advocacy, disability pride, assistive technology, independent living, employment skills, career exploration, higher education, legislative advocacy, the Disability Rights Movement, and community participation. Guest speakers provide expertise on many topics to add to the discussion. Additionally, there are plenty of opportunities for social, artistic, and recreational activities, as these are part of leading a well-rounded life, including a dance to celebrate accomplishments with old and new friends.
The California Governor’s Committee developed the program for employment of disabled persons in 1992. The US Office of Disability Employment Policy has replicated the initiative around the nation. The Youth Leadership Forum is implemented at the state level by state and local partners. PYD brought the YLF model to Massachusetts nearly 20 years ago, and since then served as a host and collaborator.
In 2019, we planned and hosted an intensive four-day Massachusetts Youth Leadership Forum for youth with disabilities in conjunction with collaborating organizations across the state. Funding support was secured from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, and the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council; which made it possible to restore YLF to its four-day format at Bridgewater State University. New funds from the Boston Public Schools were secured for the fiscal year of 2020 to support YLF.
Last year, PYD selected 56 Youth Delegates and Peer Leaders to attend the Forum following a statewide process that resulted in over 100 applications that staff and collaborators conducted personal interviews for. Photos of the Youth Leadership Forum of 2019 can be viewed at this link. The 2019 YLF slide show is available at this link.
Please help us spread the word about this terrific opportunity to eligible youth with disabilities across the state by sharing this information with your networks, colleagues, and youth who may be interested and eligible. We want to be sure that all regions of Massachusetts are well represented at the forum.
The YLF 2020 online application, recommendation form, and additional information can be found at this link. The application deadline is April 15th.
We can’t wait to see Massachusetts’s future leaders this June!
This blog post was written by Joanna Dumas.