Applications for the 2017 Florida Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) are now available!
CLICK HERE to access an online application.
The Able Trust believes in Empowerment, Education, and Employment. These credos are echoed in the organizational mission to be a key leader in providing Floridians with disabilities opportunities for successful employment.
Empowerment comes first because, without a belief in self, the pursuit of the other two becomes all the more difficult.
So what is empowerment?
Dictionaries define the word in this way: to give ability to; enable or permit.
Participants of the 2016 Florida Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) would agree.
"YLF is about inclusion and promotion of leadership initiatives in local communities," YLF group facilitator Isaac said.
The purpose of YLF is to bring together high school students with disabilities, creating a network of support while making them aware of the various education and employment resources available to them as they reach the age of independence. The goal is to inspire all participants to strive for the highest level of independence possible.
One of the many leadership skills honed at YLF is public speaking. Students introduce presenters to their peers (left) before each session begins. Judge Lori Rowe (right) addresses YLF 2016 participants in the House Chambers of the Florida Capitol on the importance of civic and social responsibility.
"YLF helps to allow delegates the opportunity to embrace their disability and provide them with unlimited amounts of confidence," YLF group facilitator Tyler said."
For most YLF participants, simply making it to the event was a major obstacle to overcome, since several had never been away from home on their own for an extended period of time. By showing the courage to step out of their comfort zones to experience something new, students have opened the door to a new realm of possibilities.
"One of the things I learned at YLF is that we should not be ashamed because we are different," 2016 student Mackenzie said. "We learned about many options available to us to help us become more independent."
"The most helpful part about YLF is learning and getting advice from our peers who are already traveling down the same road we are," YLF group facilitator Jose said. "Their experience on college life and getting accommodations has been a big help to me."
Over the course of five days, YLF participants learned about the long, hard fight Americans with disabilities had to endure in order for this generation to enjoy many of the privileges they sometimes take for granted.
Career Coach Patrick Medlock (left) goes through the job search process, preparing students to learn about STEM careers during the annual career exploration held at the University Center Club on the campus of Florida State University (right).
"It took a long time for people with disabilities to get their rights," YLF 2016 student Kaia said. "Learning about their struggle makes me want to do more and be a good leader."
In addition to learning about disability history and sensitivity, YLF participants learned about business and dinner etiquette, explored STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers with more than 20 local business leaders, and visited The Florida Capitol for a mock legislative session, where they debated and voted on a bill.
"After my experience at The Capitol, I'm going to run for office at my school and start getting more involved," Kaia added.
At the conclusion of YLF, each year one student is selected as the recipient of the Joey Alvord Spirit Award, named in honor of one of the first delegates to participate in the Florida YLF that was killed tragically in an automobile accident. The award is presented to YLFers who embody compassion, leadership, and determination.
"I feel that I can build on my leadership skills by being more confident and not giving in to the feeling that I sometimes want to give up," 2016 Joey Alvord Award winner Kamaron said. "I want to help people that are out there with same disability that I have, and be a friend to them."