St. Louis, MO was a natural choice for an AYLF program site due to the social and cultural richness that abounds there contrasted with the troubling economic, educational, and employment factors that limit the opportunities for communities to thrive. Simultaneously, there is a strong network of local grassroots and civic organizations in the St. Louis metropolitan area that is fiercely dedicated to positive change, especially those serving and engaging young people. AYLF’s place-based, the partnership-driven approach has had a strong impact in this environment by connecting the talent of young people to opportunities, developing their passions into purposeful action, and locally embedding resources to support sustainable positive change that is community-driven. St. Louis cohorts of AYLF draw fellows from the city proper, the surrounding area in Missouri, and the southwest part of Illinois.
For each St. Louis cohort, we look for up to 30 Fellows with raw talent, creativity, and a passion for serving their community. AYLF does not base candidate selection ontop grades, test scores, 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’ understandings 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 Aspen Institute-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 St. Louis community benefits from developing a critical mass of young leaders while simultaneously cultivating local adult and organizational talents to accelerate and sustain these efforts.