Empowered Youth Leaders Program

Empowered Youth Leaders Group in Salem, 2017


The University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Empowered Youth Leaders program promotes self-determination, independence, and self-advocacy of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ages 16-21) through an interactive training program. The training gives self-advocates the experience and skills to become leaders and use their leadership to create real change. Youth participate on their own with the support of program staff and volunteers.

2019-2020 program preview

A year of outdoor adventures and service learning projects will feature quarterly events including the following:

  • June 25-27: kayaking and camping trip
  • August 2019: service learning trip
  • December 2019: winter outdoor day trip
  • March 2020: service learning trip

Youth must commit to attending all four events throughout the one-year program.

Program cost: $200

Families with financial barriers are encouraged to contact us to discuss options.

Applications for the next cohort will open early 2020.

2019-2020 Program Update

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

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.