The Youth Leadership Program of RTIEL encourages the youth of the 21st century to be effective leaders and stresses the importance of civic engagement and a college education. Since 2011, RTIEL has sponsored an essay contest for high school students. The essay topics have focused on civil rights activism and voting rights. Winners of the contests have won an all-expense paid trip to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama for a Civil Rights Tour that culminated in participation in the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge commemorating Bloody Sunday.
In 2011-2012, four students participated in the tour, two students participated in 2012-2013, and four students participated in the tours in 2013-2014, 2014-2015, and 2016-2017.
In our previous efforts, students involved in our program were required to learn more about civil rights activists and other relevant supreme court rulings related to voting rights. However, the students were not required to be involved in various leadership activities in their communities – which is the purpose of the RTIEL Youth Leadership Program. As a result, in 2016, RTIEL did not sponsor an essay contest as it was in the process of revamping the contest and creating a new program in which youth may participate and earn the trip to Alabama.
RTIEL has now launched its Trailblazer Program, and students who participate in the Program will be eligible to participate in the 2017-2018 RTIEL Youth Leadership Essay Contest and to earn the trip to Alabama in March of 2018 and a college scholarship. Additionally, RTIEL Trailblazers will participate in leadership and character building courses, participate in local community improvement events, and develop a Community Impact Project with fellow RTIEL Trailblazers. Completion of the requirements of the Trailblazer Program qualifies students to earn a cash prize!