Another successful year of the North Carolina Youth Leadership Forum (NCYLF) has come and gone, with the 2016 Forum being held on the beautiful campus of NC State University from June 13th – 17th. Each year NCYLF selects 20 youths with disabilities ages 15-30 from across the state of North Carolina to participate in the week-long leadership training. Throughout the week, delegates learn about disability history, including disability civil rights and laws, as well as the Independent Living Philosophy and Movement. Delegates can also expect to gain and/or sharpen their leadership, self-advocacy, and communication skills. In my opinion, the most important thing YLF does is empower these young people to have the confidence, strength and ability to go back to their hometown and effectively advocate not only for themselves, but for their friends and family with disabilities as well.
The theme of this year's Forum was YLF University ’16. From staying in a residence hall, eating meals in the cafeteria dining hall, to engaging in elective and mandatory classes in NC State classrooms, delegates were given an authentic college experience. Some of the classes that were offered include Money Management, Assistive Technology, American Sign Language, Improvisation, and Cooking. Social events were offered during the evenings where delegates were able to hang out, have fun and continue to get to know one another. Some events that were offered include bowling, movie/game night, arts and crafts and adaptive athletics. The week was capped off on Thursday night with a celebration banquet and dance!
This was the first year I was fortunate enough to be involved in NCYLF and I would like to take time to sincerely thank everyone who made this week possible. To every staff member, volunteer, interpreter, nurse, and personal care attendant who put in the hard work and long hours to ensure everything ran smoothly – thank you. To the planning committee who has been working tirelessly for months to pull this off – thank you. To the staff at NC State for the respect and attention you displayed to our group, and for the incredible hospitality – thank you. To the local businesses who donated staff to volunteer, money for supplies and accommodations, and/or food for meals – thank you. Lastly and most importantly, to the delegates – thank you for making NCYLF 2016 a truly unforgettable experience, I only hope you can say the same.