What happened during Plan’s 2023 Youth Leadership Academy?

September 11, 2023

At Plan International USA, we work with communities across the world to fight for girls’ rights. Gender inequality exists everywhere in the world, including the U.S., so we work with young people here, too, to fight against it! 

One of the ways we do that is through Plan’s Youth Leadership Academy — a yearlong leadership program dedicated to training, supporting and mentoring young activists in the U.S. as they seek to create positive change in their communities.  

What brings young people to the YLA? Mona, one of the program participants, shares her take:

During this year’s YLA, participants kicked off the program with remote, online sessions in June to prepare for the four-day residential academy in Washington, D.C. which took place in late July. More than 40 young people from across the U.S. joined together in D.C. for the in-person portion of the program, participating in activities including a panel on youth in politics, a deep dive session focused on the sustainable development goals related to climate change and gender equality, a model U.N. session and team bonding activities.  

A group of girls sit on an office floor and paint a banner that says, “Plan USA YLA 2023.”
YLA participants joined together for a team bonding activity, creating a colorful mural.

YLA participants did some D.C. sight-seeing, too, and ran into an unexpected guest!

Senator Bernie Sanders poses with a group of YLA participants in Washington, D.C. 
YLA participants got to meet Sen. Bernie Sanders while taking a tour of Capitol Hill in D.C.! Sanders spoke with the group briefly about the climate change.

One of the most important activities of the in-person sessions is participants’ planning for their leadership development projects. Throughout the 2023-2024 academic year, YLA participants design, create and implement a leadership project in their community on the social justice issue of their choice. Participants meet online with Plan staff and mentors from Plan’s Youth Advisory Board on a monthly basis, attend skill-building webinars and access seed funding to launch their projects in their communities!  

Read: How one YLA participant’s leadership project is tackling period poverty 

A Plan employee stands in front of a projector that reads “Building Your Leadership Project” and speaks to a group of YLA participants.
Plan USA’s Youth Economic & Empowerment Associate, Kristen, speaks to YLA participants about leadership projects.

Now that the residential sessions in D.C. have been completed, participants are launching their leadership projects in their communities. And, throughout the year, members of the YLA will participate in Plan-sponsored events like International Day of Girl Takeovers, webinars and fundraising campaigns! 

Young people watch a presentation during the in-person YLA sessions in D.C.
Young people watch a presentation during the in-person YLA sessions in D.C.

Beyond their leadership projects and community-led work with Plan, participants make lifelong friends through the YLA and become a part of Plan’s national network of more than 500 young leaders advancing girls’ rights and elevating young voices. Plan is proud to bring together young people of diverse backgrounds.  

Four YLA participants stand in front of the White House during their stay in D.C.
Four YLA participants stand in front of the White House during their stay in D.C.

With support from Plan, young people like these are accessing social justice education, and advocating for themselves and the issues they care about. They are becoming the changemakers of tomorrow, building a more equitable future for us all. Stay tuned for more about ways you can support YLA participants’ leadership projects!