Youth Leadership Academy

YLA Logo

"Developing Young Leaders"

The Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) program seeks to empower young people with developmental and other 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 this summer program set on a university campus. Scroll down and click on any section below to expand more information, links and forms.

Virginia Board for People with Disabilities Training Program Code of Ethics

Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to cancel the 2020 session of the Youth Leadership Academy. While conditions may be improved by this summer, we respect the difficult decision this represented for families and parents and want to ensure that we prioritize safety above all else. The YLA is a tremendous learning opportunity for the youth involved, but the nature of the program involves large gatherings, overnight travel, and close living quarters, all of which can represent a potential harm to our youth delegates and volunteer staff given the current circumstances.

We are examining scheduling alternatives and will make an announcement there when it becomes prudent to do so and we feel conditions allow for the program to run without issue. Thank you for your patience and understanding in these trying times.

Academy Flyer

The application period for the 2020 YLA session is now closed. The information below is for reference purposes only.

The Youth Leadership Academy is an exciting new opportunity for rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors with disabilities to participate in customized learning and fun through personal and career, advocacy, and leadership development activities.

Only 25 students will be selected through a highly-competitive application process, but those lucky students will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop themselves and make brand new lifelong friends!

Delegates will learn directly from peer mentors and successful adult role models while they work on their own personal leadership plans, enhance their communications skills, visit the state capitol, have a chance to speak directly to state legislators and policymakers, and much more! Best of all, all expenses are paid by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, including food and lodging!

The 2020 Youth Leadership Academy will take place on the campus of Virginia State University from July 13-16, 2020. Participation is limited and applications will only be accepted through March 27, 2020.

  2020 YLA Application - PDF

  2020 YLA Application - Microsoft Word

  YLA 2020 Information Flyer

The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (VBPD) seeks students from across Virginia to serve as Delegates to its Youth Leadership Academy (YLA).  Rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors who want to become leaders in their schools and communities are strongly encouraged to apply for the honor of serving as a YLA delegate.

Student delegates demonstrate:

  • Motivation
  • Acceptance of and interest in diversity
  • An interest in developing their personal, leadership and career development skills in preparation for their future success
  • A desire to share their thoughts and opinions

The YLA program is held in the summer on a university campus. Twenty-five Virginia high school students with developmental and other disabilities are selected to receive full scholarships to participate in this leadership development program.

For more information about YLA, contact us at or 800-846-4464.

The YLA program seeks to develop personal, leadership and career development skills in young people with developmental or other disabilities. Based on the California model of youth leadership development, YLA 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 YLA, the student must:

  • reside in Virginia
  • be a rising sophomore, junior, or senior 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
  • have a developmental disability, as defined by the Developmental Disabilities and Bill of Rights Assistance Act, OR have another type of disability (60% of participants must have a developmental disability)
What is the definition of Developmental Disability?

The VBPD uses the definition below to determine eligibility:

  1. In general, “developmental disability” means a severe, chronic disability of an individual that:
    1. Is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments;
    2. is manifested before the individual attains age 22;
    3. is likely to continue indefinitely;
    4. results in substantial functional limitations in 3 or more of the following areas of major life activity:
      1. Self care;
      2. Receptive and expressive language;
      3. Learning;
      4. Mobility;
      5. Self direction;
      6. Capacity for independent living; and
      7. Economic self sufficiency;
    5. reflects the individual’s need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, individualized supports, or other forms of assistance that are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated.
  2. Infants and young children. An individual from birth to age 9, inclusive, who has a substantial developmental delay or specific congenital or acquired condition, may be considered to have a developmental disability without meeting 3 or more of the criteria described in clauses:
    1. through (v) of subparagraph (A) if the individual, without services and supports, has a high probability of meeting those criteria later in life.
  3. How are delegates selected for the YLA?

    • Twenty-five students are selected as YLA 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 YLA expenses are paid by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, including lodging, including lodging, food, materials, and individual accommodations, such as sign language interpreters and personal care assistants.
    • Applications for the YLA must be received by prescribed due date.

    What are the major components of the YLA?

    • Delegates participate in personal, leadership and career development identification activities,  social skills enhancement, small group exploration, and an unforgettable experience interacting with enthusiastic peers and successful role models.
    • YLA Delegates are exposed to guest speakers who address such topics as disability rights laws, innovations in technology, and community resources.
    • YLA Delegates participate in "Capitol Day" which includes interaction with lawmakers and other government officials and delivery of testimony during a mock legislative hearing.

    What happens after the YLA?

    • YLA Alumni return to their schools and communities and demonstrate newly acquired skills.
    • YLA Alumni share their experience with fellow students, continue to set and accomplish goals, and recruit new YLA Delegates
    • YLA Alumni participate in alumni activities via VBPD social media discussions, blogs and surveys.
The YLA 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 YLA staff, speakers, panel members, mentors, or dorm parents, and assisting with travel and logistics. Volunteers are recruited from a variety of diverse areas including: the community, service agencies and organizations, YLA Delegate Alumni, Partners in Policymaking Alumni and other organizations., 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 on YLA, please contact:
VBPD Training Programs

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

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

If you’re a Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) 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 on our form, or share photos, videos (under 3 min.), or documents to

Thank YOU for helping us keep YLA in the news!