YLI Mission

The Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) is a multicultural program designed to help youth develop strong, effective leadership skills to work in diverse community settings. The program assists youth in learning about themselves, working with others and engaging in meaningful action. The six building blocks of YLI are learning, community, action, culture, character and leadership.


Program History

The Youth Leadership Initiative brings together Wilder’s commitment to youth development with our expertise in leadership development. Wilder strives to be responsive to the communities we serve. Our programs change and evolve based on the knowledge we gain from serving the community. Wilder launched the Youth Leadership Initiative in 2006 in response to the feedback and experiences of the youth we were serving.
During the previous ten years, Wilder had been creating models for youth community development, operating culturally specific programs and leading community service programs. Over time, we determined that youth would benefit most from a program that brought together the best practices from all of these programmatic approaches. We set out to design a program that would provide youth the opportunity to spend time in culturally specific settings and in multicultural settings, and to learn to work with others by undertaking service learning projects.
The Youth Leadership Initiative as it exists today is a multicultural youth leadership program grounded in best practices in youth development. The program provides youth the opportunity to build the skills and qualities needed to take leadership and become agents of change in their community.

Program Philosophy

Wilder Center for Communities (WCC) Leadership Framework establishes a guide for all WCC programs and includes the belief that effective leadership requires: an understanding of self, connection to and ability to work with others and a commitment to service and meaningful action in the community. Furthermore, WCC believes that everyone regardless of age have the potential to become a leader.
The Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) is grounded in the belief that youth have tremendous skills and talents, invaluable and unique perspectives and passion and commitment – all of which have the potential to benefit our community. Stemming from this core belief that young people are not problems but part of the solution, YLI provides young people with support and leadership opportunities that are comprehensive, positive, participatory and encourages youth involvement in the community. YLI’s strengths-based approach involves youth in decision making at all levels of the program and ensures success by building strong, respectful and committed relationships with youth.
YLI will be pursuing grant funding through the Minnesota Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers RFP. 

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