A Brief History of the Ohio Youth Leadership Forum

The story of the Ohio Youth Leadership Forum starts in 1992, when the state of California organized the first-ever Youth Leadership Forum. Its success would later prompt the formation of a national Association of Youth Leadership Forums, based on the California model.

In 1998, Ohio natives Bill Bauer and Maureen Fitzgerald, both members of the Ohio Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities, traveled to California to observe its new Youth Leadership Forum.

While still in California, Bauer and Fitzgerald began envisioning bringing what they’d seen back to the Midwest to create the nation’s second YLF in the Buckeye State. With no place to hold the event and no money to fund it, Bauer and Fitzgerald lobbied for the founding of Ohio’s YLF.

In 1999, their dream became a reality. 23 delegates attended the first annual Ohio Youth Leadership Forum, which was run out of a dorm lobby at The Ohio State University.

Since that first year, Ohio’s YLF has grown slowly but steadily. In 2000, Bauer and Fitzgerald, joined by six of the inaugural delegates, moved the venue to a Columbus-area hotel, where YLFers can still be found for one week each summer.

The Forum now serves approximately 50 high school students each year, and remains steadfast in its emphasis on advocacy, leadership, independence, and disability rights legislation.