The Arkansas/Mississippi Delta is a deeply rooted and interconnected region with an incredible richness of culture and history. However, the lack of economic and educational opportunity, poverty, and limited access to resources pose significant barriers for young people to fulfill their potential within their home communities. The Delta is also home to numerous leaders and community-based organizations that are working hard to provide resources and opportunities to the people of the Delta. AYLF’s place-based, the partnership-driven approach has had a strong impact in this environment by forging deep, trusting partnerships with community leaders and organizations to support and amplify their work. AYLF has to augment these efforts by connecting the talented young people of the Delta to new opportunities, building their social capital, supporting their educational goals, and developing their passions into purposeful action within their communities. By drawing fellows from across Mississippi and Arkansas, AYLF helps fellows strengthen their roots in the community and builds an inter-generational network of leaders.
Each year in the Delta AYLF looks for up to 30 Fellows with raw talent, creativity, and a passion for serving their community. AYLF does not base program selection on top grades or polished resume. Rather, the ideal Fellow believes they can make a difference and is willing to put in the work to do so.
AYLF accelerates leadership development as well as fellows’ understanding of how to create change individually and collectively both in and outside of systems.
Fellows meet one weekend per month over a year. The program includes:
- A diverse cohort of peers that serve as collaborators and lifelong friends.
- Peer learning via moderated text-based dialogues with AspenInstitute-trained moderators.
- A paid internship designed to launch a community change initiative.
- A Sister City Civic Action Trip and a national Retreat.
- Access to high-profile local and national leaders.
- A strong and growing alumni network.
Upon graduating, Fellows become lifelong members of the global Aspen Institute network with access to resources designed to ensure their college, community, and career success:
- Leadership and career coaching
- On-demand academic tutoring
- Crisis support and seed funding for initiatives
Additionally, AYLF cultivates local adult stakeholders through community institutions who, with support and training from the AYLF team, grow to own and execute their program over time. Through this program, the Delta community benefits from developing a critical mass of young leaders while simultaneously cultivating local adult and organizational talents to accelerate and sustain these efforts.