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Training the Next Generation of Leaders

Originally appears in the Spring 2013 issue

During my career as an environmental science teacher, it became clear to me that many young people are passionate about helping to make the world cleaner and better. Often, however, they lacked the life skills needed to transfer their ideas into action. Schools continue to provide students with knowledge, but not with skills or opportunities to test their knowledge in the real world. The Young Adults Environmental Leadership Program (YAELP) was created to help solve this challenge, by providing a context in which students can develop key competencies often not addressed in traditional education. In this article I will explain how the program works, what its potential benefits are, and provide a template for hosting such an event in your area.

YAELP is a comprehensive program that provides teams of youth with training, expertise and guidance in the development and implementation of community environmental projects. Each team consists of five to six students from a school or organization, and can be adapted to include students as young as twelve up through college age. Along with a teacher advisor, each team chooses a project such as creating green space, water testing or recycling.

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Dave Bauer is an environmental consultant who works with non-profit and corporate clients. He is the founder of YAELP and is available for speaking engagements. Pamela Szalay, who assisted in the writing of this article, is a trainer and speaker specializing in creativity. She participated in four YAELPS as a facilitator and advisor, and has recently co-founded The Beyonder Academy, a creativity program for youth through the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College. She can be reached at For your questions about YAELP, and for guidance in conducting a YAELP in your community, contact Dave at