Support Coordination

Declan Attends YLF

August 31, 2023

The Missouri Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) is a unique career leadership-training program for high school students with disabilities, ages 16 to 21. Youth delegates are selected from their local communities to cultivate leadership, citizenship, and social and career development skills at a 5-day summer program located on the Mizzou campus in Columbia, Mo. The program also offers alumni the opportunity to return to camp as a team leader to mentor the current class.

Declan and his family learned about YLF from a Mizzou Pre-ETS representative as well as Declan’s Support Coordinator (SC) Sherry Nemeth. Declan has received BCFR services since 2014 and Sherry has been his primary SC since 2020.

Over the last three years, Sherry assisted Declan and his family with obtaining BCFR funding to finance personal supplies and attend DASA summer camp. Sherry also attends his IEP meetings at Hallsville High School to ensure continuity of service planning in all settings. Since he is approaching 18, she is also working with Declan and his family to see what support considerations he will need to transition into adulthood and pursue post-secondary higher education. Sherry has coordinated BCFR sponsorship for a student to attend YLF in the past, and knew it would be a beneficial time for Declan to meet individuals his age, other prospective college students and further enhance his leadership skills.

“Declan is one of the most positive clients that I have ever worked with,” said Sherry. “He and his family are focused on doing whatever it takes to best ensure that Declan’s support needs do not impact his ability to access desired activities, services and higher education.”

Throughout the five days at YLF, students gain self-confidence, learn from each other and build a supportive community to grow their advocacy skills. These experiences will benefit them through college, careers and adulthood.

Declan said, “What I learned was that there are many different accommodations you can get from many different resources. So I shouldn’t really worry about adulthood and stuff.”

Events during the forum included attending mentor lunches where delegates speak to other individuals with disabilities who are leading successful lives, participating in community service activities, playing adaptive sports and going to the Capital to meet directly with Gov. Parson. There was also a time to let your hair down and build friendships. Some of Declan’s favorite events at YLF were the talent show and dance.

Declan’s mom Amanda was excited to pick up Declan after a week away, she said, “First thing he said wasn’t that I missed you, it was I’m coming back next year as a mentor! We just love BCFR and all they do for our family.”