Youth Development & Leadership

All effective youth programs have youth development at their core. Effective youth leadership programs build on solid youth development principles, with an emphasis on those areas of development and program components that support youth leadership. Research shows that youth development and leadership are important components of effective youth programming. These findings are reflected in the Workforce Investment Act’s emphasis on effective youth practices such as adult mentoring and activities related to leadership, development, decision-making, citizenship, and community service. Adult mentoring and leadership development opportunities such as community service and peer-centered activities during non-school hours are, in fact, two of the ten WIA-required program elements. The following information is available to assist you in determining ways that you can incorporate youth development and leadership further into your programs and hear from young people with and without disabilities on their ideas on how it can be accomplished.

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.

Blazing the Trail: A New Direction for Youth Development and Youth Leadership

This report identifies challenges that surfaced during discussions at the Blazing the Trail Conference and the next steps to be taken by all stakeholders in the field of youth development and youth leadership.

By Youth for Youth: Employment

By Youth, for Youth: Employment was written by youth for youth who want to know more about finding and keeping the right job. It is important to consider what makes a job right for each young person, where to look, and how to write a resume and interview. Youth with disabilities also need to consider disability disclosure in the workplace and how to ask for accommodations, if needed. After accepting a job offer, youth can take advantage of opportunities for mentoring and continuing to build their skills. This brief covers each of these topics and provides information on supports like vocational rehabilitation and transportation. 

Charting the Course: Supporting the Career Development of Youth with Learning Disabilities

This Guide is intended to help practitioners, administrators, and policymakers in secondary and postsecondary education programs, transition programs, One-Stop Career Centers, youth employment programs, and community rehabilitation programs to improve services and outcomes for youth, ages 14 to 25, with diagnosed and undiagnosed learning disabilities. This Guide includes numerous quick reference charts, tables, and tools for counselors, career advisors, and other professionals who work directly with youth. In-depth information is provided on a variety of topics, including the types and impact of learning disabilities, needed supports, and research-based interventions. This Guide is intended to increase awareness of the fact that the workforce development system serves many youth who have learning disabilities that may never have been identified and many others who may know they have a learning disability but choose not to disclose. Although focusing primarily on youth with learning disabilities, many of the strategies and approaches advocated in this Guide, which are premised on universal design, may be of practical use for other youth.

Developing Financial Capability Among Youth: How Families Can Help

Developing financial capability is an important part of preparing youth for the transition to adulthood. Families are one of the most significant influences on young people’s financial knowledge and attitudes. This brief for families provides suggestions and resources on how to talk with youth about money and assist them to learn and practice financial management skills through their interactions at home. 

Digging Deeper: The 5 Areas of YD/L

NCWD/Y organizes Youth Development and Leadership into five areas learning, connecting, thriving, working, and leading, consistent with the framework supported by the Forum for Youth Investment.

Financial Literacy Information For Young People With Disabilities

This InfoBrief describes the federal and state initiatives that provide financial literacy information for young people with disabilities to learn how to save money and build assets.

Five Areas of Youth Development with Related Outcomes and Activities

A table providing an outline of the five areas of development.

Fostering Inclusive Volunteering and Service Learning

This guide provides information useful to youth service professionals and others interested in facilitating youth engagement in volunteer activities. It describes how youth benefit from volunteering, different types of volunteer opportunities, and ways to assist youth to prepare for, access, and learn from their experiences. It also provides relevant resources and tools that can enhance and foster successful outcomes.

Guiding Your Success Tool

The Guiding Your Success Tool helps youth and young adults think about and plan for the future. Youth can work on this tool by themselves, with peers, or with a caring adult. The tool does not have to be completed all at once or in one day. It can be done in sections or a couple of questions at a time.

Organizational & Programmatic Components of Effective Youth Programs

A table describing the organizational and programmatic components of effective youth programs.

Providing Quality Career Development within Youth Development and Leadership Programs

This practice brief describes how organizations can assess the extent to which they currently provide quality career development opportunities to the youth they serve and identify ways to integrate more career development skills-building into their programs. By incorporating more career development activities into their work, youth development and leadership programs can ensure that youth acquire competencies they need not only to enter and succeed in employment but also to make informed decisions and manage their future career.

Taking Charge of Your Money: An Introduction to Financial Capability

Developing financial capability, the capacity, based on knowledge, skills, and access, to manage financial resources effectively, is an important part of becoming an adult. This brief provides a starting point for youth to learn about and develop financial capability so that they can make smart decisions about managing money now and in the future. 

Youth Action Council on Transition (Youth ACT)

Youth Development & Leadership White Paper

This paper assists youth service professionals, administrators, and policy makers in defining, differentiating, and providing youth development and leadership programs and activities, which are important components of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

Youth Development and Leadership in Programs

This InfoBrief describes how administrators and policymakers can use the concepts of youth development and leadership in developing and administering programs that serve all youth and activities specifically geared toward youth with disabilities. The brief is based on a longer paper, Youth Development and Leadership, A White Paper, published by The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth. Youth Development and Leadership in Programs

Youth Development and Leadership Jump Start

All effective youth programs have youth development at their core. Effective youth leadership programs build on solid youth development principles, with an emphasis on those areas of development and program components that support youth leadership.

Youth Development and Leadership Opportunities to Develop Thriving Competencies

This Innovative Strategies Practice Brief provides practical examples from promising and exemplary youth programs for implementing youth development and leadership opportunities that help youth develop Thriving competencies. Thriving is the youth development competency area that involves developing attitudes, skills, and behaviors that youth need to maintain their optimal physical and emotional well-being.

Youth Development and Leadership Quick Reference Guide

The guide explains youth development and leadership components and how they lead to more effective workforce development programs.

Youth Development and Leadership: Opportunities to Develop Connecting Competencies

This Innovative Strategies Practice Brief provides practical examples from promising and exemplary youth programs for implementing youth development and leadership opportunities that help youth develop Connecting competencies. Some of the youth programs featured in this brief have been recognized by NCWD/Youth as Innovative Strategies. NCWD/Youth Innovative Strategiesfeature programs and organizations that serve youth with disabilities either as a target population or as part of other youth populations.

Youth in Action! - Getting Involved in Volunteering

Getting involved in the community through volunteering is a great way for youth to develop valuable experience and skills for employment and college while helping others in their community. This tip sheet for youth provides action steps for getting involved in their community.

Youth in Action! - Leading Your Transition Planning

Between the ages of 14 and 24, youth are going through a transition, or period of change, from adolescence to adulthood. Transition planning can help youth take charge of their own future. This tip sheet for youth provides action steps for leading their own transition planning.

Youth in Action! - Participating in Internships and Work-Based Experiences

Work-based experiences, including internships, are paid or unpaid opportunities for youth to explore career options, practice skills, and prepare for success in a future career. This tip sheet for youth provides action steps for participating in internships and other work-based experiences.

Youth in Action! - Serving on Decision-Making Boards

Becoming involved in a decision-making board is one way youth can take on leadership roles in their community and get involved in decision-making processes that impact their lives. This tip sheet for youth provides action steps for serving on decision-making boards.

Youth in Action! Becoming a Stronger Self-Advocate

Becoming a self-advocate means learning how to speak up for yourself, asking for what you need and want, and having as much of a say as possible in making your own life decisions. This tip sheet for youth provides action steps for becoming a self-advocate.

Youth in Action! Learning Disability History

Disability history is the study of the history, culture, contributions, social and civil movements/activism, and film and media representations of people with disabilities as well as disability-related policies, laws and practices. Learning about disability history can empower you to take action in your own life, to influence the lives of others, and more. This tip sheet for youth provides action steps for learning about disability history.

YouthACT Frequently Asked Questions

YouthACT Team Profiles

Introduction to the YouthACT Team Profiles

The Youth Action Council on Transition (YouthACT) is a national initiative to get more youth with disabilities and their allies involved as leaders who partner with adults and organizations to improve opportunities for youth to succeed in life. “Transition” is the process and period of change that youth go through to become adults. Transition typically occurs between ages 12 and 25.

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