After attending several national leadership conferences, Minnesota decided to start its own youth leadership conference. A volunteer group of conference planners representing Dept of Human Services, county social service agencies, nonprofit agencies serving youth, and former foster youth planned and executed a two-and-a-half-day youth leadership conference beginning in 1995.
The purpose of the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today (TLT) conference is threefold:
- To celebrate and enhance the leadership capacity of youth
- To teach leadership skills that can be used now and in the future to affect personal and community change
- To strengthen the network of adults who value youth leadership.
The TLT Conference defies description. It includes large group activities, multiple workshop sessions, keynote speakers, motivational music, comedy, storytelling, ethnic dance groups, art projects, and more.
The conference is for current or former foster youth ages 16 to 20 who are either on a county social worker’s caseload or involved with a nonprofit agency youth program. These are not youth who are likely to be invited to a mainstream youth leadership conference. The conference is held each summer at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. Youth and youth workers sleep in dormitories and eat in the campus cafeteria. About 200 people attend each year from counties, tribal nations, and community agency programs. Typically, about half the participants are from the metro area and half from greater Minnesota. Participants represent a wide range of cultures and identities.
The TLT conference aims to empowers youth. To encourage them and gives
them the tools they need to participate in their communities in
meaningful and constructive ways. These youth have a great deal to say
about how to improve the child welfare system, because they have
experienced it. The TLT conference changes young peoples’ self-concept
from disenfranchised to contributing, knowledgeable, and valued
community members. The TLT conference is also intended to change
adults’ views. The conference is built on a foundation of positive youth
development. Youth workers are encouraged to recognize each youth’s
talents, abilities, and knowledge, and to return home committed to
involving youth in their community in a positive way.