Youth Leadership Forum
Posted July 15, 2016on:
Over the past several days, (July 12-14, 2016) I had the honor of being a staff member at the 2016 Massachusetts Youth Leadership Forum in Bridgewater, MA.
Youth Leadership Forum, or YLF, as it is often called, is a conference for young adults with disabilities who are transitioning to adulthood. The delegates are students who are either going to be seniors in high school in the fall, or who have just graduated high school this past spring. Youth who have attended YLF twice as a delegate and are now attending college or are employed serve as peer leaders. There are at least three peer leaders for each group consisting of 6-8 delegates.
Each group also had two or three staff captains and at least one PCA to support the youth. The small group discussions were led by the peer leaders, and the staff were there to add support when necessary. This was my second year as a staff captain.
This year, each of the groups was assigned a color. I was in the orange group, which was a very fitting name, given the fiery energy and passion of the individuals in our group. I was truly moved by their enthusiasm, their spirit, and their desire to inspire others and to be inspired themselves. These young adults represented a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, religions, home/family situations, and disabilities.
However, the one thing they all shared in common was their zeal, their determination, their wish to make the world a better place, their view that they were more than just their disabilities, and their affirmation that they were unique people.
The past three days have filled me with so much hope for this generation and have made me proud to be part of such a wonderful experience and community. When I left for YLF on Tuesday, I was hoping that I would inspire the youth. I had no idea just how much they would inspire me as well.
I miss them already, but like I told them at our final group meeting, it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning. It’s the beginning of new friendships and of a lifetime of fighting for the rights of people with disabilities.