Youth Leadership Forum (YLF)

Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities

This forum is an exciting, fun, educational, five-day vocational awareness program for approximately 60 high school students with disabilities in California. The forum integrates state agencies, community advocates, and students who serve and represent the diversity in the developmentally disabled community in our state. The forum is held annually with events scheduled at the State Capitol and California State University, Sacramento. Student delegates can attend the forum at no cost.

Young people with disabilities have more opportunities and more challenges than at any other time in our nation’s history. With the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they have unprecedented opportunities to fully develop as constructive, contributing members of our society. However, many need encouragement and information about resources to develop as leaders in their communities. The forum enables them to learn from each other and from successful adults with disabilities who are recognized leaders and role models. Such a forum benefits not only the participants, but all young people with disabilities, communities in general, and the adults who assist in producing the forum.

Major State partners include the Employment Development DepartmentDepartment of RehabilitationCalifornia Foundation for Independent Living CentersDepartment of Education, the State Independent Living Council, the California Workforce Development Board, and the State Council on Developmental Disabilities. For more information and the application visit California Youth Leadership.


As young people with disabilities grow into adulthood, they must begin to plan for a life beyond school. Historically, youth with disabilities have the highest unemployment rates, the lowest participation in post secondary training and education programs, and the highest likelihood of remaining dependent on public assistance programs following high school. By encouraging youth with disabilities to take an active role in planning and pursuing career goals, they can become positive, contributing members of our society. YLF is the ideal program to motivate youth with disabilities to overcome their own barriers and help address those of others in their communities.

Many YLF alumni have graduated from colleges and universities, have successful professional careers, become leaders in their schools and communities, and lead independent lives.

YLF Participants

Participants are selected among young people with disabilities who demonstrate leadership potential, academic success, involvement in extra-curricular activities, community involvement, and the ability to interact effectively with other students in order to be accepted into the forum. Participants learn from each other and from mentors/adults with disabilities how to make a successful transition from school to work. Then they take their expanded knowledge into their communities to help educate others who may not have the skills to advocate for themselves.