Impact of Leadership Training on H.S. Students with Disabilities

Columbus, OH. Leadership development programs for high school students with disabilities are few and far between. This mixed-method, qualitative-quantitative study was to determine the impact of a leadership development program in Ohio called the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF).
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Modeled after a similar program in California, this program brings approximately 35-40 high school students to Ohio’s capital to learn how to become an effective leader. Small and large group sessions also covered topics such as disability history and culture, transition from high school to employment and/or post-secondary opportunities, advocacy skills, rights and responsibilities, American with Disabilities and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its amendments and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
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Students were invited to the four-day free-of-charge forum after completing an application form, submitting an essay and sitting through an interview process. Delegates were then notified via phone call and letter upon admission into the program. Ohio has operated four forums beginning in the year of 1999. Data was collected retrospectively (from the delegates) for years 1999-2001.
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The year 2002 forum researcher immersed himself in the forum to become an active participant to gain a qualitative understanding of the forum’s happenings. Quantitative data was also used to back up the general findings of the forum with use of surveys and questionnaires.
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Longitudinal surveys were also completed by the 2002 delegates six months later to see if the forum had any long term impact. The quantitative results of this study indicated that youth delegates who attended the leadership program improved skills in leadership, potential to be a leader, agent of change potential, knowledge of laws and regulations and self-advocacy.
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The qualitative results of the study indicated that youth delegates who participated in the forum established peer relationships, mentor relationships, improved self-esteem, motivation, provided commitment to long term leadership, and development planning. Additional observation and text provided research that solidified the views of non-disabled peers and the importance of email/internet usage.
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In conclusion, this study indicated the importance of leadership development programs for students with disabilities. Opportunities such as YLF will provide a whole new generation of leaders with disabilities who can “carry the torch” to a new generation.
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As a person with a disability I have been blessed with meeting many people in my life who have encouraged me and assisted my aspirations to “go for my dreams.” It is not possible to thank all of the people who have touched my life in ways that I cannot thank them enough.
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By William M. Bauer, Ph.D.

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The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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