Young people with learning differences in K-12 educational settings experience barriers to participation, success, thriving, wellbeing, and leadership opportunities. With few funded spaces for students with learning differences to interact with other students or mentors who share similar experiences, school can be an environment of isolation and uncertainty, rather than growth and belonging. Out-of-school time programming can be a place where learning and community needs are better met, but staff may be less familiar with assessing and addressing learning difference needs.
Expanding opportunities and improving experiences for youth with learning differences requires understanding and scaling best practices. Despite having some of the most valuable insights into barriers and potential solutions, young people are largely excluded from the decision-making processes surrounding the support, services, and programs that affect them. With support from Oak Foundation, the International Youth Foundation seeks to change this by partnering with young people themselves to co-design, manage, and learn from a grant fund that will invest in activities that promote equity and inclusion for students with learning differences, particularly those who experience further marginalization due to racism and poverty.
IYF will recruit, onboard, train, and support diverse cohorts of young people to lead three key stages of the grantmaking cycle: issuing the call for applications and selecting grant recipients; conducting formative assessments halfway through the two-year grant term; and convening key stakeholders for a final learning event. Each cohort will participate in a series of in-person and virtual events that help them build community, develop relevant skills and plans for their assignment, and learn more about themselves and the systems that surround them.
Informed by IYF’s 30+ years of experience supporting youth-led development and facilitating more youth-inclusive systems, this project will support youth to experience increased belonging, agency, purpose, and engagement and relevant stakeholders, to improve their knowledge of best practices and improve the quality of existing services.