Leadership Programs

Youth Leadership St. Louis

Founded in 1989, Youth Leadership St. Louis (YLSL) is an internationally recognized program that informs, connects, prepares and empowers St. Louis area youth to become civic and community leaders.

Each year, YLSL brings together high school juniors from  public, private, parochial and charter schools from across the region, as well as community organizations. Each program day immerses the students into regional issues, giving them the opportunity to connect and learn from community leaders, collaborate with their peers and put their leadership skills into action.

As a result of their participation:

  • 91% of graduates have a better understanding of regional civic issues.
  • 81% report an increase in self-management skills.
  • 82% of students can look at issues from multiple angles, seek new perspectives and voices, and take meaningful action.
  • 78% of students have a greater personal commitment and responsibility to the region.

Who Can Participate

Youth Leadership St. Louis is open to high school juniors at one of our partner schools or community organizations. Students are accepted into the program through their school/organization’s selection process, and each student team is accompanied by a teacher/YLSL advisor who is trained by FOCUS as a leadership coach.

What to Expect

YLSL participants meet one to two times per month during the school year. The eight-month program begins with a retreat in September and ends with a graduation ceremony in April.

Throughout the year, students explore issues ranging from social responsibility and economic development to public health and diversity. Program days, held during school hours and select Saturdays, include a combination of team-building exercises, experiential learning activities, site visits/tours, and dialogue with community leaders.

Take the Next Step

Complete our 2024-25 Partner Intent to Participate Form.

Sign Up

YLSL selection begins in the spring of sophomore year and is administered by participating high schools/organizations.

YLSL advisors at each participating school/organization distribute student applications. Community leaders conduct interviews to select class members, and students are notified by their schools/organizations of their selection.

If you’re interested in bringing this program to your school/organization, complete our Partner Intent to Participate Form.


Through the generous support of our corporate and foundation funders, FOCUS is able to offer the Youth Leadership St. Louis program for only $500 per student. 

For More Information

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


Thank you to the following organizations for their generous support of the YLSL program: