Empowered Youth Leaders Program

A group of campers stand together in front of a picnic shelter


The Empowered Youth Leaders (EYL) Program is looking for youth (ages 16-24) with intellectual and developmental disabilities who want to learn more about themselves, work with others, and explore the outdoors!

Join a group of young people who will meet together throughout the year to develop independence, self-determination, and leadership in the community. The youth leaders decide together how they want to benefit your community through various service learning projects. They will explore the outdoors while learning about conserving the environment and discovering how you can make a difference in protecting the planet.

The goal of our program is to help youth gain independence and leadership skills that can be valuable in future employment, school, internships, or volunteer opportunities.

All EYL events will take place in or around the Portland Metro area.

2020-2021 program calendar

Due to COVID-19, the 2020-2021 EYL program has been postponed until the winter of 2021. 

Please visit this web page later in the fall of 2020 for updates.

2019-2020 Program Update

The kickoff event for the 2019 UCEDD Empowered Youth Leaders Program was a success. Our inaugural cohort of nine young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities joined us for three days of kayaking and camping with Adventures Without Limits at Champoeg State Park. During this event they began working on the foundations of leadership and self-reflection, learned about environmental stewardship and Champoeg history, and enjoyed the natural park surroundings. Participants will work over the year to increase advocacy and leadership skills through three more events for service learning and skill development.

Group photo of youth leaders on a park bench with forest stretching out behind them

The first service learning event took place at Tryon Creek State Natural Area where youth learned about forest ecosystems and conservation, practiced leadership skills and mindfulness to reduce stress at work or school, and made seed balls using seeds of native grasses and mud to throw into the forest where foliage is thin. They were also able to talk with a ranger about transferable skills they can learn now that will help them decide on future career paths, as well as try iPad apps to identify, photograph, and record location of plants and animals they discovered.