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Youth Leadership St. Louis
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Youth Leadership St. Louis


"Because of Youth Leadership St. Louis, I feel more confident in my ability to make a real impact in the world. I have a more clear understanding of the world and what I can do to change it."

- Aimee Clive, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri


About the program

Youth Leadership St. Louis (YLSL) empowers the region's youth to become future community leaders. Founded in 1989, YLSL is designed for high school juniors, helping them develop leadership skills, promoting teamwork among diverse groups, and providing a deeper understanding of the St. Louis region.  


YLSL brings students together from approximately 30 urban, suburban, rural, public, private, and parochial schools from throughout the region, as well as the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri and the Purina PALS program. The students learn how to take leadership roles, appreciate each other's differences, cooperate, and lead with other students from different backgrounds and experiences. YLSL is the area’s only established interdistrict high school program that is non-competitive in nature.


Completion of the YLSL program is an impressive entry on any resume and often an avenue to scholarships. YLSL graduates have an opportunity to do the following:

  • Serve on an allocations panel of the United Way of Greater St. Louis
  • Serve as one of two youth representatives on the FOCUS board of directors for a one-year term
  • Serve on the curriculum development team


Structure of the Program

YLSL is based on seven leadership objectives:        

  • To Inform                        

  • To Involve                      
  • To Inspire
  • To Challenge
  • To Empower
  • To Value Diversity



YLSL participants meet one or two times per month during the school year. The program begins with an overnight retreat in September and ends with a graduation ceremony in April. Workshops include a combination of team-building exercises, conflict resolution models, experiential learning, and dialogues with community leaders. Students have the opportunity to visit sites such as:  

  • St. Louis Holocaust Museum
  • Saint Louis University Medical School
  • City and county area courts and prisons
  • City Museum
  • Social service agencies

In addition to workshops, students participate in student-led research projects at their individuals schools, in conjunction with Saint Louis University. 



Funding from various companies, foundations and individuals enables FOCUS to offer the YLSL program for only $500 per student. In most cases, the fee is paid by the school or district. You can also make a gift to support Youth Leadership St. Louis.


FOCUS St. Louis thanks the following donors for their generous support of the Youth leadership st louis program in 2016-2017

The Jordan Charitable Foundation
Nestle Purina PetCare Company
The Mysun Charitable Foundation
St. Louis Cardinals Community Fund

How to apply

YLSL selection begins in the spring of sophomore year and is administered by participating high schools. YLSL advisors at each participating school distributes student applications. Community leaders conduct interviews to select class members, and students are notified by their schools of their selection.



YLSL has been recognized locally, nationally, and internationally for its excellence and service to youth

  • Designated a Promise Place by America's Promise Alliance, the preeminent collaborative around child and youth issues in the U.S. 
  • The YLSL co-facilitators were selected by the NAACP as two of St. Louis' Most Inspiring Leader award winners.
  • Honored with a Recognition Professionals International (RPI) conference award.

For more information

Shalia Ford, Youth Leadership St. Louis Director
Email | Tel: (314) 657-4021


Additional Resources

Youth Leadership St. Louis informational brochure


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