Our Legacy

YLF’s ultimate goal is to see its alumni use what they’ve learned in our program to pursue their dreams in education and in the workforce. During our weeklong program, we aim to provide delegates with a variety of resources – from independent living tips to career development and mentorships – to help them do just that.

Our delegates leave the Forum educated, excited, and empowered. Many continue to engage with the program well into adulthood, maintaining lifelong connections with their “YLF family” and serving as Forum staff.


In the words of the mother of a 2012 YLF delegate:

Empowering“, “motivating“, and “building self-confidence” are three thoughts that came to mind after we picked T up from the Ohio Youth Leadership Forum. “No one judged me for what I can and cannot do, and they made me feel as if we were friends and family forever,” T says.

We feel T was given the opportunity of a lifetime and he grew so much from this experience. He made many new friends and keeps in touch with them by phone and computer.

The program made a significant change in his outlook on life. He seems more outgoing and tries to see everything from more than one point of view!


Here are some thoughts from Maureen, a 2001 YLF delegate:

I remember the first day of the forum, sitting in my Mom’s car in front of the hotel, begging her to take me home.  I had finished my junior year in high school. I dreamt of going to a four-year, state school for college.  Everyone in the world (except my Mom and Dad) told me that it was just that…a dream.  I was embarrassed and ashamed of being dyslexic.

I am so glad I got out of the car.  The forum has had such a profound effect on me.  It was the first time that I was told, “YES, you can.”  Meeting older people who had disabilities and seeing their success was a breath of fresh air for me.  Not only did the forum give me a great deal of pride and confidence, it introduced me to adaptive technologies, which I still use today.

There is no way that the 17 year old me would believe where I am today.  In June, 2006, I fulfilled my dream by walking across the Ohio University stage and accepting a BS degree, graduating with honors. I started thinking….if “they” didn’t think I could do this, what else can I do?  The answer: move to China to teach oral English for Harvard, earn a M.A. in Instructional Technology and Media from Columbia University and work as a Consultant for IBM, specializing in Learning Technologies.  I ask myself everyday….what else do they think I can’t do?

Being dyslexic is still a daily challenge, but I am not ashamed or embarrassed any more.  I cannot thank the Forum enough for planting the seed of pride so many years ago. 


The video below is a recording of the closing remarks made at our YLF 2014 Talent Show by a first-year delegate, Megan Zahneis, who shares her life-changing experience at YLF.


YLF Has Love: A Poem

by 2015 YLF Alumni Antonio Hysell

I look and look, I see nothing but love.
These wonderful people respect me, and love me for who I am!
There’s so much love in these hallways, it makes my heart so warm.
I don’t know how they do it, but their love got to me!
I’ve seen so many hugs and friendships.
Now these nice people here are my friends too!
It has allowed me to have inspiration within myself!
It has allowed me to find peace within myself too.
Happiness is as rich as rich can get.
Who needs money when talking to my new friends is worth every cent!
The staff was so nice to me, they welcomed me in!
They are here because they love us, they volunteer!
My eyes are wide open.
I finally know what love is!
I can’t help but to tear up, I’ve never seen real love like this.
So many big hearts that match with mine!
They show you that they care, their hearts aren’t confined!
YLF has changed me;
It has turned me into an even more lovable person than what I am!
I love you all!
Stay loving, my friends!