Tuesday, February 26, 2013

YLinK: Building Leadership Peer-to-Peer | By Sam Demel

YLinK participants come together and translate their thoughts
and ideas into pictures and words to create a Mandala.
The mission of CCSR’s Youth Leadership in Kansas (YLinK) program, supported by a grant funded through the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), is to provide youth-led, peer-to-peer groups in which youth with mental health concerns may establish leadership, advocacy and communication skills. In addition, YLinK helps participants improve family and peer relations, improve school engagement and performance and prepare for the transition to adulthood.

“YLinK to me means understanding, acceptance and family. YLinK is the one place I can go where it is perfectly okay to be myself,” said Katherine, age 14.

Currently, six YLinK groups are operating throughout the state; program staff from CCSR make quarterly visits to each site, providing technical support, education and training. These groups also participated in a two-day conference for YLinK members and their families in June, and an enhanced leadership training session for those in leadership positions. Feedback from these programs was positive and reflected the change youth have expressed they wish to see in their communities.

A portion of a Mandala that YLinK participants created
during a Leadership Retreat in August.
“Leadership for youth is important; they are community leaders, not just youth leaders,” said one parent of a YLinK participant.

In the future, CCSR intends to establish five additional YLinK sites across the state, as well as a curriculum for youth engagement and leadership developed by CCSR program staff. For further information on YLinK programs, contact Sam Demel at samuel.demel@wichita.edu or 316-978-6474.

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