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YLF 2015 will take place July 15 - 19 in Tallahassee

“I Have A Voice” – YLF 2015

They come from all walks of life.

Some are athletes, competing in school-sponsored sports such as football, basketball, soccer, cross-country and track.

Some are community servants, active in their local churches, visiting the elderly, or caring for those in hospice care.

YLF 2015 is less than a month away!

YLF 2015 is less than a month away!

Some are scholars, members of the National Honor Society and Beta Club.

But they all have two things in common:

They're all teenagers. And they all have a disability.

Taking the latter out of the equation, these young people are just the same as any others. Their dreams and aspirations are exactly the same. They're vibrant, hopeful, anxious to begin the journey that will lead them to adulthood where they become independent.

Unfortunately, they all share something else in common.

Their disability has made the road to achieving these goals more difficult.

"My family raised me to be a person that commands respect, not a pitiful person who can't see very well." Mahdi of Cooper City said. "I remember one time when I was six and I stopped reading a book. I complained to my grandpa that it was too hard. He encouraged me to keep reading, even if it took a minute or an hour longer than my classmates. Just because I may have to work harder doesn't mean I should give up."

"I've had a speech impediment since as long as I can remember," Sam from Jacksonville told us. "I can remember being made fun of in elementary school and by siblings. Today, I've learned to control my speech by speaking in a normal, clear tone. I still have the impediment, but people don't notice because of the practice I've put in."

These are two of 50 students that will come to Tallahassee this July to participate in the 16th Florida Youth Leadership Forum, a four-day leadership event sponsored by The Able Trust. Students will learn about various disability resources, advocacy, business etiquette, and engage in career and post-secondary education exploration. Nominated by their various high schools, these students see that their dedication and hard work have paid off. By the end of the forum, they will return with a renewed motivation to prove the skeptics wrong.

"Being chosen as a delegate is an honor for me," Gracie from Quincy said. "I have a hearing disability, and most times when I go to a leadership event there are never kids with the same disability as me. The Florida Youth Leadership Forum will help me to be an example and give hope to other girls who have a disability and are too shy to speak up for themselves. I can be their voice."

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