EDGE Youth Leadership is a leadership development program that begins with a high-energy conference where students gather with their peers and with leaders in the community to engage in leadership and team building activities. At the conference, the students explore ideas, expand the breadth of their experiences and challenge themselves and each other to discover how they can make a difference in their own lives and in communities and the world.
After the three-day conference, the students remain connected to their teams and other participants through a mentoring program called “Day Four”. The students further develop their leadership skills by taking on a volunteer or leadership project to be completed within a year of the seminar. They are supported by peer and adult mentors to bring their projects from ideas to reality to benefit their schools or communities.
EDGE Youth Leadership has been providing students with leadership training for over 30 years. Each year we invite nearly 1,000 high schools in Northern California to send one sophomore representative to our three-day leadership conference at no cost to participants or schools.
Selecting only one sophomore per school creates an environment in which students can be free to “be themselves”. With no school peers to judge them with preconceived notions, they are free to come out of their shells and are encouraged to interact and make new friends from the moment they gather at the seminar. This freedom encourages creative thought, the tendency to be more vocal and inspires self-confidence. All of this creates a positive “can-do” attitude within the students that gives them the ability to envision how they can change the world.
“We all come from different backgrounds, races, religions and classes, but we all share so much in common. I have become so inspired and I realize that I have to help others!” -Emily G., Notre Dame High School (Santa Clara County)
During the course of the conference, over 150 students participate in interactive panels with community leaders from all facets of the public, private and nonprofit sectors. The students increase their leadership skills through public speaking, team building, communication strategies, self-reflection, and discovery.
Devoted volunteers run all aspects of the conference. There are no paid staff members in the organization and many of our volunteers work or go to school full time. The board consists of members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, NCYLS/EDGE alumni, HOBY alumni, parents of NCYLS/EDGE alumni, former speakers in the program, and members of Kiwanis International.
All of the staff of EDGE Youth Leadership has one goal in mind – to “pay it forward” and create a life-changing experience for EDGE participants.
We are currently working to increase the diversity on our board of directors to reflect the populations served. We are very conscious of providing leadership opportunities to all students and at the same time are focused on increasing the diversity of the students attending the seminar. We are cultivating board and staff members who have an understanding of how to reach and recruit students from underserved communities and who have worked with organizations such as 10,000 Degrees, Oakland Asian Students Educational Services and Making Waves.
We are also working to increase the representation of our constituents, including nonprofit partners, school counselors, teachers or administrators, members of local government and local industry.
EDGE develops leadership potential in high school sophomores and inspires them to give back. Through interactive experiences with their peers and leaders in the community, young leaders gain confidence and skills that enable them to create positive improvements in their schools, communities and the world.
By engaging youth and developing their leadership skills with a focus on service, we can feed the need for talented leadership in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to create the world in which we wish to live.
Commitment to Service
Throughout the seminar, students hear about the importance of service and how they can personally make a difference in their communities. Students are not only inspired to discover what they are passionate about in their communities, but they are also given the tools they need to take action through goal setting and volunteering.
EDGE is partnered with the Presidential Volunteer Service Award to help students track their hours and reward their levels of service. The 100 hour challenge is far above the State graduation requirements for volunteer service. 150 students, committed to volunteering at least 100 hours translates to over 15,000 hours of community service in one year.
EDGE expects to inspire more students to use their leadership skills for service in the community. Here are some comments from past seminar attendees:
“I have developed more deeply the importance of what a leader is, and why it is absolutely necessary to share our talents for the betterment of others. No matter how small our volunteering might seem, we do make a significant difference in the lives of others.” -Scott B., Escalon High School (San Joaquin County)
The Impact of EDGE
At the close of the seminar, students are challenged to complete 100 hours of service within the next year. The effect of their service is exponential as they engage their peers, families and communities to join in their excitement for service, creating a ripple effect.
Alumni have logged over 10,000 hours of service in almost all counties in Northern California since 1999. Alumni have also initiated organizations such as Students Against Violence, Key Clubs (Kiwanis), Juniorettes (GFWC), peer counseling groups and S.A.D.D.
2013 EDGE Youth Leadership Seminar Effect on Student Self-Perceptions
In 2013, of 94 students who completed the survey question, 96% pledged to complete 100 hours of volunteer service within the next year.
In 1985, a group of dedicated volunteers established the Northern California region Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) seminar and for 17 years provided incredible leadership learning experiences for high school sophomores through three-day seminars. These seminars were always sponsored by community organizations and donations and the students were invited to attend at no cost to the parents, students or schools.
In Northern California, a core group of supporters from the Kiwanis and General Federation of Women’s clubs began volunteering with HOBY in the late 80’s and has remained with the organization since. Alumni from all over the country, from Boston to New York to Atlanta gravitated to the Northern California HOBY seminar and became part of that core group of volunteers.
In 2003, HOBY implemented a policy change that required all affiliates to charge students a $150 fee to attend the seminar. The volunteers of the Northern California region felt very strongly that imposing a fee would exclude students and underserved schools who could not afford that cost. The funds associated with running the seminar are raised by the individual regions and to provide scholarships would nearly double the cost of running the seminar for Northern California.
As a result, in 2003, the Northern California region disaffiliated with the HOBY national organization and became the Northern California Youth Leadership Seminar. EDGE is committed to providing leadership opportunities to all sophomores, regardless of socioeconomic status; and the same volunteers who felt so passionately about providing access to leadership development for all sophomores continue to dedicate vast amounts of time and resources to improving the program.
In 2013, NCYLS underwent another change. As the program has grown, students from Southern California began participating and the conference was no longer just for Northern California students. We also have grown to create programs that go beyond just the annual seminar and help develop leaders for years after they participate in the seminar. Because of these changes, the name “Northern California Youth Leadership Seminar” no longer described what we do.
We changed our name to EDGE Youth Leadership. EDGE stands for Explore, Develop, Grow, Empower and traces the emotional and learning journey of a student as they go through the seminar: they explore ideas and self-identity, develop leadership, public speaking and teamwork skills, grow in confidence, and in relationships with their peers, and are empowered to go back to their schools and communities to make a difference through volunteerism.