Troy University hosts unique leadership forumPublished 11:00pm Thursday, June 6, 2013
Written by Trent Thompkins, intern with The Messenger
Troy University, the Alabama Department of Education, and the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation partnered together to sponsor the year 15 of the Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum.
The forum, which began Sunday, is designed for students and young adults with special needs to explore the many different opportunities of living an independent lifestyle. Veterans of the forum and community leaders act as mentors to teach the participants life lessons they need to live on their own.
“A lot of students come not expecting that they can live independently,” said YLF Coordinator Karen Jenkins.
Jenkins works hand in hand with sponsors, mentors and delegates to bring the YLF program to life.
Jenkins said most children and teens with disabilities rely heavily on their parents or guardians for everyday needs, and vice versa, their guardians can be overprotective at times.
“They don’t realize they can be successful without help,” Jenkins said.
The event offers delegates self-advocacy lessons, introduces new technology that assists with individual needs. There is even a trip to Montgomery involved.
First-year delegate, Gracie Holland, said she garnered lots of advice to take along with her when she leaves the program.
“I’ve learned what it takes to be a good leader,” she said, “my disabilities don’t matter.”
Holland says she definitely plans on returning next year.
“YLF provides an opportunity unlike any other for young people with disabilities to realize their leadership potential,” Jenkins said.