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Youth Leadership Development

Youth leadership development has deep roots at the Gardner Center. John Gardner believed we must invest in youth: not just in anticipation of the adults that they will become, but also as essential contributors to their current world. Working with youth as full partners in change efforts recognizes youth as leaders of today, prepares them as leaders of tomorrow, and enriches our communities along the way. We work to strengthen youth leadership and civic engagement through facilitation of initiatives and trainings that include youth-led research and youth-adult community partnerships.

The Gardner Center also supports the growth and leadership experience of another group of young people: Stanford undergraduates. We work with many dedicated students who care deeply about community issues and want to participate as reciprocal partners in projects beyond the Farm. Through the Gardner Center, Stanford students have mentored youth in public speaking and community mapping, conducted community based research alongside youth, provided trainings in urban planning and design, led arts workshops and, all along the way, have learned from and with the youth they are here to serve. Seeing this positive connection between Stanford students and local youth has been a powerful reminder of our ability to transcend institutional barriers and learn from one another.

Youth Engaged in Leadership and Learning (YELL)

YELL is a set of curricular resources available to anyone interested in training and engaging youth as partners and leaders within their communities. The Gardner Center’s YELL Handbook can help you to

  • Embed youth leadership training in authentic, meaningful projects 
  • Develop basic youth leadership skills in communications, facilitation, and teamwork 
  • Train youth as community researchers and advocates
  • Initiate and plan youth and adult volunteer initiatives

The YELL Handbook, with over 300 pages of structured agendas and planning resources, is available for free download. This resource is currently used to support youth leadership development and action in a variety of contexts throughout the United States, as well as in international settings.

Shinnyo-En Fellowship

Since 2013, the Gardner Center has partnered with the Haas Center for Public Service, the Shinnyo-En Foundation, and Redwood City 2020 to support a Stanford Public Interest Network (SPIN) Shinnyo Fellow. The SPIN Fellowship facilitates the placement of graduating seniors in full-time, 12-month paid positions in nonprofit organizations and government agencies primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area. Shinnyo Fellows receive stipends to develop individual student leadership and reflective skills, and to introduce, implement, and/or institutionalize the Foundation's philosophy of peacebuilding through service on their university campuses or in their immediate surrounding communities. Stanford is one of four Universities with Shinnyo Fellows.