Newsroom

Press Release

State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Rick Scott
Governor

David E. Wilkins
Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2012
MEDIA CONTACT: Erin Gillespie,
Press Secretary,
(850) 717-4450
DCF Communications
FLORIDA YOUTH LEADERSHIP ACADEMY KICKS OFF FIFTH YEAR, RECOGNIZED BY SENATE
~ Almost two dozen current and former foster youth participate in leadership program ~

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins welcomed 22 members as the fifth class of the Florida Youth Leadership Academy this week.

The Florida Youth Leadership Academy enables youth in foster care to develop skills necessary to maintain healthy relationships, employment and education through training and partnership with an adult mentor. The leadership skills and support networks developed throughout the course of the program provide a critical foundation for the youth into their future.

The youth were recognized by Sen. Ronda Storms and other state senators on Thursday.
The youth were recognized
by Sen. Ronda Storms and other
state senators on Thursday.

"Our goal is to support every child in foster care so that when they age out of our system, we know they are going on to bigger and brighter things," Secretary Wilkins said. "I want to congratulate each of these teens for their hard work. This Academy will help them develop the leadership skills they need to have a successful future."

Over the next seven months, Academy members and mentors from their geographical area will meet one-on-one and as a class to help develop skills in communication and public speaking, conflict resolution, advocacy, leadership, relationships and community projects.

Sasha, a 16-year-old from Jacksonville, said she was hoping the class would help her become a better public speaker. "They picked me to be a leader, and I was happy," she said. "I consider myself to be a good leader."

This week, the 22 Academy members from around the state got to know each other and their adult mentors and met DCF leadership. The youth were provided a legislative overview and spent a day touring the Capitol, observing the legislative process and talking with state legislators.

The group was recognized by Sen. Ronda Storms, who said, "We are here with you. You will succeed in life." The senators then applauded the youth and their mentors.

The Academy is for current or former foster youth who are in high school and meet certain eligibility criteria. Youth must also demonstrate a commitment to learning and to advancing their professional development and leadership skills.

The program was developed out of a partnership with the Child Welfare Leadership Program, a professional development program for social workers who will be future senior leaders in child welfare, and Connected by 25, a program that engages youth, partners and policymakers to improve outcomes for youth in foster care.

The members of the Florida Youth Leadership Academy listen to a legislative overview before touring the Capitol on Thursday.
The members of the Florida Youth Leadership Academy listen
to a legislative overview before touring the Capitol on Thursday.

Eliot Glass, a child protective investigator in Fort Myers, signed up to be a mentor for the program because he wanted to give back to the community. "Being an investigator, I see kids in these situations every single day," he said. "Sometimes these kids just need a friend, someone there to talk to, to listen to them, a positive role model."

Upon completion of the mentoring and training curriculum, the Florida Youth Leadership Academy culminates with the presentation of the 2012 Class Project and graduation at the statewide 2012 DCF Summit in Orlando.

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