Blazing the Trail: A New Direction for Youth Development and Leadership: Youth Call-to-Action

Based on findings from the NCWD/Youth-organized Blazing the Trail summit in August 2007, the eight-page, youth-friendly Youth Call-to-Action outlines ten actions that youth can take to enhance their development and become leaders in their community and the nation, including learning about their rights and responsibilities, becoming a self-advocate, learning about disability history, researching scholarships, participating in work experiences, training youth workers, and more.

Publication Cover Graphic: Eight colorful rectangles, each with the sillhouette of a youth in an active poseWhy Blazing the Trail?

In August 2007, more than 200 youth and adults came together in Washington, D.C. to discuss what action steps should be done to ensure that young people are best prepared to move successfully from youth to adulthood. A major purpose of the event, called Blazing the Trail: A New Direction in Youth Development & Leadership,was to talk about improvements that should be made in laws, policies, and ways that adults communicate with youth. The desire to address these issues came from research that shows that youth who participate in youth development and leadership experiences are more likely to do well in school, be involved in their community, and positively transition from youth to adulthood. Some common youth development and leadership experiences may include participating in an extracurricular activity at school; taking a class for important tests like the ACT, SAT, or GED; completing an internship; or participating in a community service project.

Because youth with disabilities are often not included in programs that provide these great opportunities for growth and development, a specific emphasis at the Blazing the Trail Summit was placed on making sure that youth with disabilities (including those with mental health needs) are included in everything that is available to all other youth. Among the variety of participants, at least 50 of the spaces were set aside for youth and young adults with and without disabilities. Other attendees included leaders in the youth development/leadership field; national, state and local youth development and leadership programs; researchers; public and private funders; representatives of Federal and state government; and family members.

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