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Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) attracts high-school students from across the community to learn more about the Birmingham region and each other. But it also brings together a group of adult volunteers who dedicate their time and efforts to make each program day a success. Meet two who enjoy the work—and the rewards—of supporting YLF students year after year.


Jenna Register pictured far left

Jenna Register

Accounting Manager, Glorifi

Junior League of Birmingham Member


How I got involved: One of my best friends was the Junior League chair of YLF placement, and she encouraged me to sign up because she knew I would enjoy it. Now I have been on this placement for six years and have been the chair for four years.


My volunteer role: The Junior League volunteers are vital for the logistics of each program day. For example, we help the students stay on task, and we help lead activities as well as discussions related to our careers. We do anything the YLF leaders need to ensure that each student thrives.


A memorable moment: Opening Retreat is one of my favorite days because I get to watch the students build friendships and step out of their comfort zones as they participate in games and discussions. It is amazing to see the students work together with people they just met and discover their openness to discussing matters that mean so much to them.


My advice for students: Have an open mind, and don’t have preconceived notions about a conversation or activity. You will experience every emotion during the year because you will be encouraged to talk about things that can make you feel uncomfortable. Each speaker and activity will teach you something that you can use in the different phases of your life.


Benefits of volunteering: I get to see Birmingham from a different perspective. Through conversations with the students, I learn how other people think and feel about different issues in today’s society.


Why YLF deserves local support: These students are the future of Birmingham. They are excited by all the opportunities that YLF provides, and because of those opportunities, several of them will choose to go to college and/or live in Birmingham.



Shanta Owens pictured on left, standing

Shanta’ Owens

Judge, 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama


How I got involved: I am a 2011 graduate of Leadership Birmingham, and several years ago Susie Abbott asked me to co-chair YLF Government Day. Since then I have always looked forward to it and will rearrange my court schedule to make it happen.


My volunteer role: For Government Day, I meet with Susie [Abbott] and Susan [Shields Cash] to identify topics that will interest the students. Then we select speakers who are engaging and inspiring. I also fill in if we cannot get someone to facilitate a panel.


A memorable moment: A few years ago, I met Jared Pugh, who asked a lot of questions during Government Day and was interested in the sessions involving the courtroom and the legal system. Months later, he called my courtroom chambers and asked if he could be a student intern. I already had a high-school student intern, but I loved Jared’s initiative and passion for his future. He was one of the best interns—even among the law school interns—that I have ever had. He is currently at Dartmouth College, and we keep in touch.


My advice for students: Get a mentor to help you achieve your goals. Do not be shy about your future. Call those individuals who are where you would like to be and ask if they would mentor you. You also can have more than one mentor.


Benefits of volunteering: I absolutely love working with YLF. It is rewarding to explain the court systems and criminal laws to the students. They are so bright and have amazing questions. They inspire me and give me hope for the future of our communities.


Why YLF deserves local support: It is important for local leaders to get involved so that they can see the talent in our schools. This talent needs to be cultivated and mentored so that we can retain these students in order to move Birmingham and surrounding areas forward.