Skip to Content


| Newsletters

An Insider’s Look at YLF


Anoop Mishra is one of the rare double graduates in the Leadership Birmingham family — a member of both the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) Class of 1988 and the Leadership Birmingham Class of 2011. That gives him a unique perspective on the high-school program among his Leadership Birmingham colleagues. If you’re not familiar with YLF, discover six reasons why Mishra is a passionate advocate for it and encourages everyone to support its growth:


  1. YLF’s program-day structure and underlying principles are familiar to Leadership Birmingham participants. In fact, when he joined Leadership Birmingham, “my immediate thought was that it copied what we did in YLF many years ago,” Mishra says with a laugh. He describes YLF as an immersive experience that introduces 16- and 17-year-olds to aspects of the region they might not have experienced—and provides a peek into the inner workings of the community. “It was my first experience where business, government, and community leaders talked to us as real people and not in a patronizing way,” he recalls. In return, his student cohort felt free and empowered to have frank discussions with the presenters, he says.
  1. YLF reaches students across the Birmingham region. Members are sophomores and juniors representing public and private high schools in all parts of Jefferson County, with no more than two students from any one school. “Voices are reasonably distributed across the greater Birmingham area, which means the students hear different issues and perspectives,” says Mishra, who was a Homewood High School student in 1988. To keep the program accessible, students pay no cost to participate.
  2. YLF teaches lessons that stick with students for life. This spring, in the wake of high-profile bank failures in other parts of the country, Mishra was part of crucial discussions at the Federal Reserve about mitigating financial ripple effects in the Southeast. And he could draw a straight line from that decision-making process back to a YLF experience 35 years ago. “During Government Day, we did budgeting exercises — and that was the first time we realized that there really isn’t enough money to go around,” Mishra says, smiling. Back then, he and the other participants roleplayed as nonprofit groups requesting funds from a mayor and city council. “If yours was not selected, it stung,” he says. “We realized that well-deserving people are affected by these difficult decisions that officials make every day.” In addition to the lessons they learn on program days, YLF students take part in a leadership skills workshop that covers topics such as résumé writing, time management, communication, and college readiness.
  3. YLF has withstood the test of time. Leadership Birmingham launched the program in 1985, and YLF’s program-day structure and organization have remained much the same since then. A few years ago, Mishra took another deep dive into the program when his daughter, then a Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School sophomore, participated in YLF. The two often compared experiences and found more similarities than differences. “YLF’s principles and its approach to understanding different facets of Birmingham have been upheld, even though the speakers and the nature of the student audience have evolved a lot,” Mishra says. “YLF’s directors have made the program continue to be relevant as Birmingham has changed.”
  4. If local companies and organizations want to retain top talent, YLF is a good place to start. The program helps inspire a Birmingham focus and an awareness of the area’s opportunities and challenges, opening a “window into what’s possible” right when the students are considering their college and career choices. Mishra says. That knowledge can encourage them to remain in Birmingham as they begin their careers—or come back to it, as Mishra did — and bring about change. It’s also an investment in the future: “In 20 years, those students will be in the leadership pipeline, and we want to keep the best and brightest here,” he says.
  5. YLF welcomes support from Leadership Birmingham members. Mishra wants YLF to continue to thrive and add learning opportunities for young people. More direct interactions between Leadership Birmingham and YLF participants can help accomplish that, he says. He hopes to see Leadership Birmingham members taking part in YLF program days, or perhaps even developing mentorship and skills initiatives for YLF students as they graduate from the program, complete high school, and enter college. “To me it’s not a question of continuing to support YLF, but figuring out how much more we can do to strengthen those bonds,” Mishra says. “How many different ways can we develop close ties with the young people in our community?”



Contact Katherine Berdy ( to assist with YLF program days.

Your tax-deductible contributions help ensure that YLF remains free for all participants. Donate now at

Do you know a rising sophomore or junior who would enjoy YLF? Nominations are due August 25. See for details.