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Youth Leadership Initiative

YLI participant working and smiling
Developing a new generation of strong, effective leaders

Wilder's Youth Leadership Initiative is a community leadership program for high school students to strengthen self-awareness, develop cross-cultural leadership skills, and to put skills learned into action in a multicultural and global community.

Wilder has made the incredibly difficult decision to end the Youth Leadership Program. We know the absence of this program will be felt throughout the community. We will make every effort to work with other organizations who may be able to take up these important leadership programs. If you have questions, please contact Lindsay Bacher at
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About the Youth Leadership Initiative

Program Overview

The Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) is a cohort model of learning. Young people apply and are selected to be in a learning cohort that meets consistently over a period of time. In YLI, learning happens through active engagement, listening and doing, reflection, a mixture of small and large group activities, storytelling and peer mentoring. The structure of YLI is youth centered. In addition to youth participants determining the focus of cultural exploration sessions and community issues to be addressed, a team of youth mentors are selected to return and be peer leaders in the program. The roles of adults are to support, encourage, share knowledge and power, and create access and opportunity. Youth and adults work together as colleagues and learn from one another. 

Program Length & Format

 8 months (November - May)

  • Youth/Parent Orientation
  • Weekly After-School Sessions
  • Weekend Youth Leadership Retreat
  • Graduation

Program Activities That Help Youth Build Leadership Skills

Participant Requirements

YLI is grounded in the belief that all young people have the potential to benefit our community with their skills, talents and unique perspectives. We do not screen only for those youth who are “in trouble” or those who are “above average.”  As a result, we bring together a truly diverse cohort of youth.  They are diverse in their interests, ethnic backgrounds, family structures, country of birth, “crowd” at school, grade point average and so much more.  These youth spend a year together building solid trusting relationships. For many, it changes their life. Participants must:

  • Be in grades 9-12
  • Live in Saint Paul or the East Metro area
  • Reflect diversity of the community
  • Commit to attending program sessions for one school year
The Youth Leadership Initiative helps youth discover their leadership abilities.
A group activity with Wilder's Youth Leadership Initiative

Youth Stories, Evaluation Research & YLI's Impact

Youth Leadership Initiative alumna Theng Yeng Xiong speaks at 2018 Hmong Professionals Dinner at Wilder

The Youth Leadership Initiative Empowered Me to Believe that My Voice Matters and I Can Make a Difference

Hello everyone, I am Theng Yeng Xiong, an alumna of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation Youth Leadership initiative. The Youth Leadership Initiative is a multicultural leadership program that develops and equips young people to be leaders i...More about this story »

Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment Logo and Minnesota State Arts Board logo

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant to the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a special legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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