NYLI Youth's Perspective on Leadership published in the Journal of Community Psychology


The NYLI is committed to strengthen the skills and capacity of young people to influence positive change in the communities where they live, learn and grow. Knowing that young people are the best resource for creating this change, our motto is “Youth-Led; Adult-Guided”


The National Youth Leadership Initiative (NYLI) is built on the framework of evidenced-based community problem-solving processes researched and documented by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre Workgroup for Community Health and Development at University of Kansas. This work has been calibrated for substance abuse by CADCA and institutionalized over 10 years through the National Coalition Institute (NCI), Coalition Academy and CADCA’s Youth Programs delivery system. The NYLI is embraced by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), states and local communities. It helps coalitions build capacity to foster youth leadership in design, implementation, and evaluation of action strategies addressing community problems through “Youth In Action” Projects which employ seven evidence-based behavioral change strategies with an emphasis on environmental change to effectively address the problem behavior identified.

This experiential educational model is designed to create community change by improving individual core competencies and essential group processes of youth and adult advisors to create change at population-levels. The distinction between this youth leadership initiative and others is the intentionality for the development of youth, ages 13 to 18, to become good community problem solvers, communicators, and advocates who participate in the creation of a civil society. There is also a central focus on workforce development as we integrate youth into the fabric of local communities.

NYLI is adaptable and has been evaluated by Michigan State University. The MSU independent evaluation shows the NYLI as making an impact in youth’s leadership skills, civic and political engagement, social justice orientation and their self-efficacy with facilitating community change.


An independent evaluation conducted by Michigan State University (MSU) has documented the NYLI’s positive impact on youth attitudes about themselves and their ability to facilitate community change. Youth who participated in the NYLI identified an increase in their leadership skills, civic and political engagement, social justice orientation and self-efficacy with facilitating community change. The study showed that youth trained by NYLI experienced an increase and significant changes in the following aptitudes:

  • Leadership Competencies
  • Community Organizing
  • Problem-Solving Abilities
  • Current and Future Civic Activism
  • Civic and Political Engagement
  • Youth-Adult Partnerships