21 youth participated in the sixth class of the Florida Youth Leadership Academy this week. Presented by The Department of Children and Families, the Florida Youth Leadership Academy provides youth in state care with training and partnership from adult mentors. The program helps these youth develop the necessary skills to maintain healthy relationships, employment and education. The leadership skills and support networks developed throughout the course of the program provide a critical foundation for the youth into their future.
“Our goal is to support every child so that when they reach the age to leave our system, we know they are going on to bigger and brighter things,” said DCF Secretary David Wilkins. “I congratulate each of these teens for their hard work. Through the Youth Leadership Academy, these young people will develop the leadership skills they need to have a successful future.”
Over the next seven months, Academy members and mentors from their area will meet one-on-one and as a class to help develop skills in communication and public speaking, conflict resolution, advocacy, leadership, relationships and community projects.
Tianna, a 17-year-old from Orlando was elected by her peers to serve as class president. “I wanted to run as president because I have been captain of my basketball team for two years and feel I will be a great leader for foster youth in this program. I want to build my experience up to be a better leader in the long run and maybe even run as senator.”
This week, the 21 Academy members from around the state got to know each other and their adult mentors and met DCF leadership. The youth were provided a legislative overview and spent a day touring the Florida Capitol, Old Capitol Museum and the Florida Supreme Court. The youth selected Florida State University for an upcoming college campus visit in June.
The Academy is for current or former foster youth and youth involved in the dependency system who are in high school and meet certain eligibility criteria. Youth must also demonstrate a commitment to learning and to advancing their professional development and leadership skills.
The program was developed by the third class of the Child Welfare Leadership Program, a professional development program for social workers who will be future senior leaders in child welfare, and Connected by 25, a program that engages youth, partners and policymakers to improve outcomes for youth in foster care.
Mary Kay McAnally, a policy and procedure manager for FamiliesFirst Network in Pensacola is a returning mentor, now in her fourth year. “Being a mentor is a privilege, and I look forward to every new class,” she said. “I have worked with four young adults, all who have made such a positive impact on my life. They are resilient, funny and each a leader. I love taking this journey with them.”
Upon completion of the mentoring and training curriculum, the Florida Youth Leadership Academy culminates with the presentation of the 2013 Class Project and graduation at the statewide 2013 DCF Summit in Orlando.
For more information, please visit www.myflfamilies.com/fyla or follow the Academy throughout the year on Twitter at #FYLA2013.