Skip to main navigation Skip to Content

Youth Leadership Academy

YLA Logo

"Developing Young Leaders"

The Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) program seeks to empower young people with developmental and other disabilities to further develop their leadership skills. Students, serving as Delegates from communities throughout Virginia, participate in a wide range of activities and learning experiences during this summer program set on a university campus. Scroll down and click on any section below to expand more information, links and forms.

Virginia Board for People with Disabilities Training Program Code of Ethics

The YLA application deadline is closed.

The Youth Leadership Academy is Virginia's premiere opportunity for rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors with disabilities to participate in customized learning and fun through personal, career, advocacy, and leadership development activities.

Each class size is limited and students will be selected through a highly competitive application process. Those chosen will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop themselves and make brand new lifelong friends!

Delegates will learn directly from peer mentors and successful adult role models while they work on their own personal leadership plans, enhance their communications skills, and have a chance to speak directly to state legislators and policymakers, plus much more. Best of all, all expenses are paid by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities!

The 2023 Youth Leadership Academy will be held in-person and is tentatively scheduled for either the second or third week in July. VBPD will announce the dates and location on our website and Facebook page as soon as they are available. The deadline to submit an application is Friday, April 7, 2023. Apply online at Apply today!

  2023 Youth Leadership Academy Application - PDF

  2023 Youth Leadership Academy Flyer - PDF

  2023 Youth Leadership Academy Postcard

Academy Flyer

The YLA program seeks to develop personal, leadership and career development skills in young people with developmental or other disabilities. Based on the California model of youth leadership development, YLA recruits rising high school juniors and seniors with disabilities who have demonstrated leadership potential and motivation.

What are the eligibility requirements?

To be eligible for YLA, the student must:

  • reside in Virginia
  • be a rising sophomore, junior, or senior as of December the preceding year (if in a non-graded program, returning to high school for at least one year)
  • have demonstrated leadership potential in his/her school and community
  • have a developmental disability, as defined by the Developmental Disabilities and Bill of Rights Assistance Act, OR have another type of disability (60% of participants must have a developmental disability)
What is the definition of Developmental Disability?

The VBPD uses the definition below to determine eligibility:

  1. In general, “developmental disability” means a severe, chronic disability of an individual that:
    1. Is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments;
    2. is manifested before the individual attains age 22;
    3. is likely to continue indefinitely;
    4. results in substantial functional limitations in 3 or more of the following areas of major life activity:
      1. Self care;
      2. Receptive and expressive language;
      3. Learning;
      4. Mobility;
      5. Self direction;
      6. Capacity for independent living; and
      7. Economic self sufficiency;
    5. reflects the individual’s need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, individualized supports, or other forms of assistance that are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated.
  2. Infants and young children. An individual from birth to age 9, inclusive, who has a substantial developmental delay or specific congenital or acquired condition, may be considered to have a developmental disability without meeting 3 or more of the criteria described in clauses:
    1. through (v) of subparagraph (A) if the individual, without services and supports, has a high probability of meeting those criteria later in life.

How are delegates selected for the YLA?

  • Twenty-five students are selected as YLA Delegates in a competitive application process administered statewide.
  • All applications are reviewed for compliance with application procedures. Following a screening and selection process, semi-finalists are contacted by phone to arrange a personal interview. Finalists selected to attend the forum are notified by letter.
  • All YLA expenses are paid by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, including lodging, including lodging, food, materials, and individual accommodations, such as sign language interpreters and personal care assistants.
  • Applications for the YLA must be received by prescribed due date.

What are the major components of the YLA?

  • Delegates participate in personal, leadership and career development identification activities,  social skills enhancement, small group exploration, and an unforgettable experience interacting with enthusiastic peers and successful role models.
  • YLA Delegates are exposed to guest speakers who address such topics as disability rights laws, innovations in technology, and community resources.
  • YLA Delegates participate in "Capitol Day" which includes interaction with lawmakers and other government officials and delivery of testimony during a mock legislative hearing.

What happens after the YLA?

  • YLA Alumni return to their schools and communities and demonstrate newly acquired skills.
  • YLA Alumni share their experience with fellow students, continue to set and accomplish goals, and recruit new YLA Delegates
  • YLA Alumni participate in alumni activities via VBPD social media discussions, blogs and surveys.

The YLA depends on a committed network of volunteers. The volunteers are involved in all aspects of assuring a successful experience for the Delegates including planning and preparation, delegate recruitment and selection, serving as YLA staff, speakers, panel members, mentors, or dorm parents, and assisting with travel and logistics. Volunteers are recruited from a variety of diverse areas including: the community, service agencies and organizations, YLA Delegate Alumni, Partners in Policymaking Alumni and other organizations., volunteers:

  • Assist with Student Delegate recruitment and selection
  • Plan and prepare activities and materials
  • Assist with travel and logistics and
  • Serve as speakers, panel members, mentors, or dorm parents

For more information on YLA, please contact:
VBPD Training Programs

Virginia Board for People with Disabilities / YLA
1100 Bank St, 7th Fl
Richmond, VA 23219
800-846-4464 (TTY/voice)

Have you given a presentation? Volunteered your time? Completed a goal from your personal leadership plan?

If you’re a Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) graduate, we want to hear from you. Accomplishments of all types are welcome, especially those involving community activities. The Board wants to highlight young leaders, and we know your participation in school and volunteer activities will inspire others.

Submit brief details on our form, or share photos, videos (under 3 min.), or documents to

Thank YOU for helping us keep YLA in the news!