Youth Lead the Change (YLC) is a global youth leadership development program that empowers students to unlock their leadership potential by developing tangible solutions to global problems. Over the course of the five-day program, students work in teams to understand an issue they care about and create a social change project to address it. Throughout this process, students learn about their own passions and strengths, as well as core leadership skills such as collaboration, public speaking, time management and self knowledge. The students also gain one-on-one coaching from the Harvard trainers, who continue to serve as mentors after the program. Students also have the opportunity to earn funding and support to implement their project after the YLC camp ends.
The program was designed by a team of Harvard University students in the Leadership Institute at Harvard College (LIHC), a student-run organization devoted to training the next generation of global leaders at Harvard. Realizing that we often learn best by teaching and practice, a group of students in LIHC conceived of a program that would teach leadership to youth, thereby empowering others while also developing our own skills. After an initial partnership with Citizen Schools in Boston in 2009-2010, the leaders of YLC decided to expand the program beyond Boston in order to increase our impact. We have since taught in multiple cities in the US over the summer, as well as in Bhutan, Myanmar, Japan (Nagoya and Tokyo), and Puerto Rico. To date, over 700 students around the world have been impacted by YLC programs, and the number continues to grow each year.
What Differentiates this Program?
Differentiating this program are the student teachers and their youthful perspective on leadership development. Reliable and relatable, the teachers serve as advisors and friends to the students, breaking down intimidating age-based authority structures. With tremendous enthusiasm for both teaching and learning, the teaching team constantly learns from the students, adapts to their interests and needs, and builds lasting relationships that continue after the program through formal and informal mentorship opportunities. In terms of the curriculum itself, the novelty of this program stems directly from the innovative approach to leadership, namely combining leadership with social action.