Youth Development is a process that prepares young people to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood through a coordinated, progressive series of activities and experiences which help them gain skills and competencies. Youth leadership is part of that process. In order to control and direct their own lives based on informed decisions, all youth need the following:

  • Mentoring activities designed to establish strong relationships with adults through formal and informal settings
  • Peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities
  • Exposure to role models in a variety of contexts
  • Training in skills such as self-advocacy and conflict resolution
  • Exposure to personal leadership and youth development activities, including community service, and
  • Opportunities that allow youth to exercise leadership and build self-esteem.

Youth with disabilities also need:

  • Mentors and role models including persons with and without disabilities, and
  • An understanding of disability history, culture, and disability public policy issues as well as their rights and responsibilities.