Contemporary youth development requires a new approach to involving youth in more active, engaging, and influential leadership roles. Teens and youth program professionals recognize the need young leaders have for more mentorship and accountability from adults to grow into their leadership potential. This paper specifically addresses how youth development professionals can engage student leadership teams in co-designing experiences for teens through the role of influencers. In this role, young leaders radiate their influence both laterally among their peers and vertically among adult leaders, developing stronger networks and gaining valuable experience. This paper draws observations from two state-level programs, the Missouri FFA Leadership Camp and the Missouri 4-H Youth Civic Leaders Summit, as examples of effective and productive practice. The authors provide recommendations on how adult practitioners can gain buy-in from other adult coordinators, incorporate youth as influencers in leadership event planning, and foster positive youth development in the process.



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