Youth Development & Leadership

Policy in action is a distinguishing CDF characteristic. Through nationwide initiatives and community-based programs, we plant the seeds to develop the next generation of servant-leaders who will continue to reweave the fabric of community for children and youth. Our vision is to create a successor generation of servant-leaders who will drive community and national transformations and inspire and make long-term improvements for children.

Beat the Odds® Scholarship and Leadership Development

in 2014, CDF hosted Beat the Odds celebrations for high school students who have overcome tremendous adversity in Washington, D.C., Texas, California, Minnesota, Ohio, and New York. For the past 22 years, the program has supported more than 700 students with college scholarships, and has served as a catalyst for young people to become doctors, lawyers, Peace Corps volunteers, teachers and contributing citizens in their communities. Learn more about the Beat the Odds program.

Don’t live in a city hosting an event? Make a donation to the general scholarship fund.

CDF and the Black Community Crusade for Children’s (BCCC®) Young Advocate Leadership Training (YALT®) Program

An overarching Children’s Defense Fund priority is to build a strong, effective successor generation of young servant leaders to carry on the struggle for freedom and justice. Over the last five years, CDF has trained 5,000 next generation leaders, at least half of them Black males, to ensure a robust youth leadership pipeline and ongoing structures for service and advocacy in communities across America. Through the Young Advocate Leadership Training (YALT®) program, CDF provides a beginner, intermediate, and advanced training series to equip the next generation’s leaders with the skills and support needed to take national, state and local action to replace the cradle to prison pipeline with a pipeline to college, productive work, and successful adulthood. Learn more about the YALT® program.

Young Advocate Leadership Training (YALT®) Program
Awake youth of the land and accept this noble challenge of salvaging the strong ship of civilization by the anchors of right, justice and love. -Ella Baker

Training at a Glance


The YALT program is conducted by the Children’s Defense Fund on the behalf of the Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC) campaign. The YALT program is a critical component of CDF/BCCC youth leadership development work. The program is two-fold:

Build a movement for children.

The YALT program maintains a national network of young servant leaders committed to child advocacy and social justice. The national Young Leaders Action Network is a forum to engage servant leaders across the country in ongoing dialogue and effective action necessary to address the toxic cocktail of poverty, illiteracy, racial disparities and massive incarceration that is sentencing millions of children to dead-end, powerless and hopeless lives and threatens to undermine the past half century of racial and social progress.

Train a new cadre of young leaders.

With an esteemed faculty and core training team, YALT equips young servant leaders with intensive and specialized training so that they can return home and continue to sow the seeds necessary to build a movement for children. YALT is designed to train and prepare young servant leaders 18 to 30 years old to be a strong and effective voice for all children but especially those left behind. The three-day organizing and advocacy-based curriculum is offered at regular intervals throughout the year at the Children’s Defense Fund’s Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tenn., CDF’s spiritual renewal and servant-leadership development center for building a movement to save children.

Join the Young Leaders Action Network to connect with other Servant Leaders and get information about upcoming training and community outreach opportunities.

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Youth Advocate Leadership Training Profiles

The Young Advocate Leadership Training (YALT®) program is an action-oriented training series for young leaders to empower them to take national, state, and local action for freedom, justice and social progress. These young leaders reroute the Cradle to Prison PipelineTM from the road to despair to the path to college, community service and successful adulthood.

Jalaya Liles Dunn Amanda Aguirre Erica Ayala Darryl Briggs
CDF Baby  A Healthy Start Ladder to Leadership Bars Behind, Change Ahead
Chris Burton Bryan Eason David Poms Michael Tubbs
Minister For The Movement Serve First, Then Lead Purpose-Driven Life  Against All Odds
CDF SHOUT® Program

The CDF SHOUT (Student Health OUTreach) program began in New York City with graduate and undergraduate students from Columbia University and now has colleges and universities in several states steering students to be trained to deliver community service in areas such as the impact of insurance and health care on children and families, local and national statistics, health coverage programs available for eligible families and skills in how to reach out to and help families complete State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) applications.

Learn more about the CDF SHOUT programs or student child advocacy in your state by contacting one of our CDF state offices.


The CDF SPROUT (Student Poverty Reduction OUTreach) program provides students with training and specific projects to find, explain and help all eligible families receive the public benefits that can lift children out of poverty, including EITC, SCHIP, Medicaid, Child Tax Credits and Food Stamps, among others. The CDF SPROUT program is implemented with National Student Partnerships, the nation's only student-driven volunteer service organization that links individuals in need with critical personal, social and business resources to help them obtain and maintain regular employment.

Learn more about the CDF SPROUT programs or student child advocacy in your state by contacting one of our CDF state offices.