Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship Announces 2020-2021 Cohorts

January 28, 2021

Yearlong fellowship for young leaders from Chicago, St. Louis, and the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta will support them to engage in values-based leadership and tackle pressing community issues 

Ana Rossetti 

Washington, DC, January 28, 2021 – The Aspen Institute today announced three cohorts of Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship (AYLF) located in Chicago, St. Louis, and the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta. The fellowship identifies, cultivates, and amplifies rising generations of talent to engage in values-based leadership essential for transforming their lives and society for the better. 

Across these three locations, AYLF will bring together 75 young people between the ages of 18-22 for a yearlong cohort-based leadership development and community impact program followed by four years of targeted support for degree completion and job placement for the Fellow. AYLF also provides support to mitigate opportunity gaps faced by Fellows and their families. The program directly engages community organizations, local change-makers, and educational institutions.

AYLF is a critical community resource to ensure that a generation of talent does not become collateral damage to the social, political, economic, and health crises affecting so many. The program purposefully targets low-income and working-class families to ensure those most vulnerable have equitable access to opportunity as well as a critical safety-net. Candidate selection is not based on grades, test scores, or a polished resume. Rather, the ideal Fellow believes they can make a difference in their community and is willing to put in the work to do so.

The fellowship accelerates leadership development as well as Fellows’ understandings of how to create change individually and collectively both in and outside of systems. “I’m thrilled that AYLF has come to Chicago. In addition to their dedication to developing values-based leaders, AYLF understands that what happens outside of sessions is just as important as what happens inside,” says Kim Hunt, Executive Director of the Pride Action Tank, a project of AIDS Foundation Chicago, and a renowned advocate for Black and LGBTQ+ people. “By developing fellow-specific ecosystems of support, AYLF is truly creating a diverse pipeline of leaders who will help Chicago become a city where your zip code does not determine your trajectory.” 

 The experience includes:

  • Monthly leadership training seminars.
  • A paid internship designed to launch a community change initiative.
  • Access to high-profile leaders locally and nationally.
  • 4 years of targeted support for fellows and their families post-fellowship.
  • Lifetime connection to the Aspen Institute’s network of contacts and opportunities.

“AYLF has been a life support system for many of our young adults in the Delta region of Arkansas,” says Dr. Phillip Lockhart, an Arkansas native, Assistant Principal of Instruction at KIPP Delta College Preparatory, and Facilitator for the 2020-2021 Delta Cohort. “Through the development and shared knowledge that has permeated the community, AYLF’s impact has been a conduit to a more sustainable life, mitigating the effects of poverty and violence. If AYLF continues to support and develop leaders in the Delta, one can extrapolate that the results will continue to have an exponentially positive impact.” 

Rooted in AYLF’s program model is a place-based, partnership-driven approach, that augments the work done by numerous leaders and community-based organizations, to connect the talented young people to new opportunities, build their social capital, support their educational goals, and develop their passions into purposeful action within their communities. AYLF helps fellows strengthen roots within their communities and builds an inter-generational network of leaders. Cohorts have tackled issues ranging from educational inequity and civic engagement, to financial literacy.


The Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship (AYLF) identifies, cultivates, and amplifies future generations of talent to engage in the values-based leadership essential for transforming their lives and society for the better. Founded by William (Scott) Bush (Henry Crown Fellow ‘05), AYLF is a place-based, multi-site program at The Aspen Institute that nurtures cohorts of diverse youth to: (1) support degree completion; (2) prepare for workforce success; and (3) address the most compelling social, political, and scientific issues facing their communities. AYLF Fellows stimulate long-term community transformation through a whole-systems approach that involves families, educators, and community stakeholders. AYLF transfers human, social, and economic capital into regions so they have the necessary resources to engage in problem solving as a community.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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