Youth Leadership and Advocacy Project: Far West
Young people have a great deal to contribute to the current advocacy environment. Today’s youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have grown up in a time when the rights of people with disabilities have been established through important civil rights acts that were passed over the last 30 years. However, youth with IDD often need training to fully understand their rights and how to effectively advocate for those rights so that they can become fully integrated and included in all aspects of community life. Teaching leadership and advocacy skills to youth with IDD gives them a voice while assuring that disability advocacy will continue into the next generation.
Develop a project to provide leadership training to youth with IDD so that they can have the opportunity to come together to gain information, develop specific skills, and establish personal goals and plans in an experientially based program.
The El Paso Del Norte Youth Leadership Forum (PDYLF) recruited youth with IDD, mentors and facilitators to participate in their forum. In their first year, students with IDD were considered forum delegates. Delegates participated in a curriculum to begin developing self-awareness, leadership and self-advocacy skills. These skills would enable them to take a more active role in their personal lives and community, as well as to prepare them to continue their education after high school, work, and serve as role models for other youth with IDD.
After the first year, delegates were encouraged to continue to participate in PDYLF activities the following year, and some were selected to become PDYLF Mentors. Mentors assisted and supported first-year delegates at PDYLF activities and continued to develop their leadership and advocacy skills. Some Mentors who continued to participate in PDYLF were selected to serve as PDYLF Facilitators.
PDYLF Facilitators were usually college students who served as role models for delegates and mentors. They put into practice their leadership skills and shared their real-world experiences with delegates and mentors, including experiences with post-secondary education, employment, community participation, independent living and accessing adult services.
Recruitment presentations were given at area high schools, universities, and community colleges and other venues. Mentors and facilitators were trained for Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) Weekend, and 60 youth with IDD attended the three-day weekend event.
Seven monthly leadership and advocacy training and support activities were provided for YLF delegates. Participants took part in presentations at various conferences and attended a final YLF celebration. Other community and social events were also scheduled throughout the year.
- 60 youth with IDD were able to take part in YLF events
- Participants have gained self-confidence and self-awareness, leadership and self-advocacy skills
- Seven leadership and advocacy training and support activities were provided for YLF delegates