Virginia Board for People with Disabilities

Youth Leadership Forum

YLF Logo

"Developing Young Leaders"

The YLF 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.


Watch the YLF YouTube Video YouTube - Virginia Youth Leadership Forum

The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (VBPD) seeks students from across Virginia to serve as delegates to its Youth Leadership Forum (YLF).  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:

  • Motivation
  • 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.

Download the YLF flyers: Version 1 and Version 2

The Forum will be held at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond from July 28 through August 1, 2014. Twenty-five Virginia high school students with disabilities will be selected to receive full scholarships to participate in this leadership development program.

Applications are now closed.

For more information about YLF, contact Kara.White@vbpd.virginia.gov or 800-846-4464.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 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 December the preceding year (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 YLF must be received by 5pm, on the last business day in March.

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 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 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.

Program Components:

  • 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.

Eligibility, Application/Selection Process, and Contacts

Student Delegates:
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 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 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 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 Delegate Alumni, Partners in Policymaking Alumni and other organizations.

Typically, volunteers:

  • 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

Virginia Board for People with Disabilities / YLF
1100 Bank St, 7th Fl
Richmond, VA 23219
800-846-4464 (TTY/voice)

Share Your Success

Have you given a presentation? Volunteered your time? Completed a goal from your personal leadership plan?

If you’re a Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) graduate, we want to hear from you. Accomplishments of all types are welcome, especially those involving community activities. The Board wants to highlight young leaders, and we know your participation in school and volunteer activities will inspire others.

Submit brief details below, or share photos, videos (under 3 min.), or documents to info@VBPD.virginia.gov

Thank YOU for helping us keep YLF in the news!

Share Your News

* Required Field

Once your information is submitted it will be reviewed by the YLF program manager and may be edited for use in VBPD materials and websites. By submitting photographs, digital images, video, or audio tape, you consent to their usage by VBPD and understand that submission does not guarantee the material will be used. You may be contacted for additional information, so be sure to list your Facebook, Twitter, or cell phone in case we have questions!


Updated November 2013

Adam Brakman (2011)
August 2013
Adam participated in various service activities as part of REACH (Real Experiences Affecting Change), including organizing and serving food at a "client choice" food bank, cleaning up trash along the Roanoke River, and decorating inspirational door hangers for residents of Roanoke. He helped assemble sanitary kits (soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, etc.) for homeless people at the LINK (Local Interfaith Network) center in Newport News.
July 2013
Adam helped serve lunch for homeless people at Westhampton Baptist Church in Hampton, VA. He participated in a panel before members of the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in Washington, DC. He helped assist his church with its Babylon-themed Vacation Bible School.

Zachary Brown (2011)
May 2013
Zach volunteers to coach U5 soccer for the YMCA in Chester.
June 2013
Zach coaches beginner swimmers for Wood Dale Swim Team. He presented his “Thumbs Up” Plan at I’m Determined Summer Summit and assisted youth who attended in creating their own plan. He encouraged the youth to build a great start to each day.
September 2013
Zach continues to volunteer for Hopewell High School’s Varsity and JV Football team. He is continuing his Employment for Education (EFE) Internship at Dupont Elementary School where he assist teachers with planning and executing lesson plans for students with disabilities in grades K-5. He also works in the school’s library checking books in and out and re-shelving them. And he reads to students. He was selected to participate on a steering committee for an Inclusion Day Project funded by the Virginia Department of Education through a grant awarded to the Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University.
October 2013
Zach shared some “Did You Know” facts for Disability History and Awareness Month at Hopewell High School and Dupont Elementary School.

Reagan Cecil (2000)
October 2013
Reagan was hired as a music teacher for McDowell County Public Schools.

Emily LeSueur (2011)
September 2013
Emily joined the Interact club at her school. Her first article of the year, “Fluco Teachers Make a Difference in the Ukraine” was published in the local newspaper, Fluvanna Review. (Fluco- Fluvanna County Teachers)
August 2013
Emily started a blog to raise awareness about Hydrocephalus. She plans on sharing her journey through life by blogging.

Alexis Nichols (2013)
October 2013
Alexis successfully advocated for an accessible bus to travel to NY with her classmates. Teachers had suggested that her mom accompany her to assist her in getting on and off a non accessible bus. She attended Children’s Hospital of Richmond’s awards ceremony, “The Spirit of Advocacy” and learned about communicating with policymakers.
September 2013
Children’s Hospital of Richmond wrote an article about Alexis and her service to others as a participant of their volunteer program. She has been asked to speak at Children’s Hospital of Richmond volunteer reception in April. She will speak about how volunteering has impacted her life, being a volunteer as well as a patient that received volunteer services. When asked to speak she was told that this event was only for adult volunteers but they wanted her to come and speak because of the impact she has made and stories she can convey. She gave the event coordinator one of her YLF business cards.
August 2013
Alexis used social media (Facebook) to reach out to a young lady diagnosed with cancer who was raising a dog for the organization Canine for Campion and Independence. She emailed the testimony she gave on YLF Capitol Day to her state delegate. He replied back that her thoughts on accessibility were well written with her personal experiences. She contacted people from whom she received business cards during YLF’s Network and Mentor Luncheon and sent them copies of her Capitol Day Testimony and YLF Essay. They in turn gave her names of people she should contact to pursue her career goal of becoming a Public Speaker.

Steve Phillips (2007)
October 2013
Steve proposed a mission statement for NOVA Power Soccer and helped to promote recreation opportunities by sending recruitment emails for the Fall Season. He wrote a career exploration paper on teaching and educating in the future to help him plan his interdisciplinary studies degree in Education and Sociology.
September 2013
Steve attended a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) welcome reception at George Mason University (GMU). This gave him a chance to get to know the campus and the professors. He had an interview with Hughes Middle School for their after school program. He had 70 credits accepted on his GMU Credit Evaluation.
July 2013
Steve wrote an analysis on the movie "Miracle", the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team. He published a YLF experience page on his new website. He wrote a speech entitled Advocacy for Wheelchair Access in Public Places to expand his disability advocacy skills.
May 2013
Steve graduated from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education.

Madison Tate (2013)
September 2013
Maddie is Junior Class Representative of her high school’s (James Monroe in Fredericksburg) Student Council Association (SCA).
August 2013
Maddie emailed a member of the Department of Education regarding her YLF testimony about SOL scores. She learned about Locally Awarded Verified Credits and what they can do for students with disabilities. She cleared off her desk at home and redecorated it to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Michael Williams (2011)
June 2013
Mike was elected as Student Government Senator at his college, Averett University. He persuaded Averett to consider making adjustments to the foundation by adding accessible features such as elevators and ramps. He was selected to be the Public Relations Coordinator of the Christian Student Union. He was selected to be on the Code of Conduct Board at Averett. He was recommended by an admission’s counselor to be a Student Ambassador. He was recommended by faculty members to be in the honors program. He is the officer and founding member of the new hype squad at Averett called The Crazy Cougars.

Youth Leadership Forum Class of 2014

  • Zoe Allen-Lewis, Falls Church
  • Stephany Alvarado, Fredericksburg
  • Bryan Cooley, Richmond
  • Jazmyn Davis, Virginia Beach
  • Claire Foster, Richmond
  • Shentelle Harris, Warrenton
  • Ryan Harvey, Locust Grove
  • Mallory Homer, Carson
  • Cassandra Lombardo, Newport News
  • Benjamin Madren, Chesapeake
  • Trent Neely, Haymarket
  • Madeline Porth, Springfield
  • Madeline Reynolds, Leesburg
  • Kalobe Saddler, Williamsburg
  • Angela Stone, Burke
  • Taylor Thomas-Harris, Chesterfield
  • John Topp, Newport News
  • Iain Wigglesworth, Bent Mountain
  • Jasmine Williams, Newport News
  • Jennifer Willoughby, Montross

Click here to see photos of the 2014 Youth Leadership Forum

Persevere • Advocate • Dream • Succeed