Toledo hosts Youth Leadership Forum: Students with disabilities work to be future leaders

Adriana, 2020 Youth Leadership Delegate. Photo courtesy: Ability Center of Greater Toledo

The Ability Center of Greater Toledo has been helping individuals with disabilities live a more independent life for over one hundred years. One way that they’re currently aiding high school juniors and seniors is through the Youth Leadership Forum. The Forum has the ultimate goal of providing students with disabilities selected to attend with increased knowledge and understanding of self-advocacy, leadership, and independence to apply to their lives.

Brooke, 2020 Youth Leadership Delegate. Photo courtesy: Ability Center of Greater Toledo

Changing times
The Youth Leadership Forum was developed by Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, and started as a statewide program in Columbus. However, as of last year, there was an expansion which regionalized the program.

This year there are eight different Centers for Independent Living— Toledo, Canton, Columbus, Dayton, Athens, Cincinnati and two in Cleveland. There are multiple Youth Leadership Forums, and students are encouraged to participate in the one closest to where they live. However, there is some flexibility with the event being virtual this year. The Toledo Forum, hosted by The Ability Center, will be held June 21-25.

According to Lisa Broseke, Youth Employment Coordinator at The Ability Center, the goal this year is to have 20 delegates. Anyone can apply to be a delegate, but along with the application the student must submit letters of recommendation and answer required essay questions. 

Along with submitting the required paperwork, applicants will also undergo an interview which helps selecting candidates. The process ensures that the twenty chosen students will take advantage of the experience and will use the program to learn and grow. 

A week of learning and fun
“Delegates will participate in activities and hear presentations on choosing career paths and how employment can lead to independence and enhance leadership and self-advocacy,” Broseke said. 

She also explained that the delegates will be choosing a Personal Leadership plan during the week which acts as a guide to developing goals in different areas, and helps get the students thinking about their futures and the impact they can have on their community. 

This year, the students will have the opportunity to work one on one with a mentor to help create goals for themselves. After leaving the forum, it is the hope that the delegates will work on reaching and implementing their goals

The Ability Center has a committee of teachers, advocates, alumni, and representatives from other disability agencies who will be helping create and implement engaging and exciting content for this year’s Forum. “Since we have a year of virtual programming under our belt, I’m much more confident in our ability to present an engaging event,” explained Broseke. 

For any juniors or seniors with a disability that are interested in applying for the Youth Leadership Forum, please visit www.abilitycenter.org/summeryouth/. The deadline is April 30th, so be sure to apply soon!