(Bringing Youth on Board) 

young women  in wheelchairs talking in the foreground, a young man using a walker dancing with a young lady with her arm in a cast. in the background women dancing and laughing

APRIL has and still leads an ambitious and beneficial collaboration with rural youth with disabilities, recognizing that the young people of our country are our true leaders. With the support of the University of Kansas RTC on Full Participation in Independent Living (RTC:FPIL) and other national partners, APRIL focuses on bringing rural youth into the Independent Living Movement by:

Youth Conference 

Hosting the first large-scale gathering of rural youth with disabilities and CILs at the 10th annual APRIL conference in Minneapolis.

Continuing the youth pre-conference and conference workshops until the 20th Annual Conference when youth attendance grew so large they became an official conference rather than a precon.

Establishing an ongoing Youth Steering Committee to make sure the youth conference is for youth and by youth.

Working with noted photographers to capture the youth involvement at the Conference.

Early support from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation providing stipends to youth to help cover the costs of attending Conferences and continued outreach today to find support for youth across the country to join us every year.

Providing a "Youth Wrap Up" session at the conference each year- so the youth get the last word.

Creating an entire track at the APRIL Conference geared to those New to IL or Youth.

Leadership and Mentoring

Adding 2 youth designated seats to the APRIL Board of Directors, and continuing to fill other seats with qualified youth when applicable. 

Hiring a Youth Programs Coordinator to work on growing and sustaining youth related projects nationally.

Youth Peer to Peer Establishing a Youth Peer to Peer Mentoring program where we send young leaders out to help other CILS start, improve, or begin the planning process of including youth into their programs or creating a youth focused program.

Youth Topical Calls  APRIL understands that across the country the hot topic is youth and young adults.  We understand that many Centers for Independent Living and Statewide Independent Living Councils are unsure how to get youth involved.  This year we have asked our youth expert mentors to present on topics that could assist your goals of starting a program or growing the existing youth involvement you may already have.  Every other month we will have one mentor present on a topic that is often discussed in our Youth Peer to Peer Mentoring for a nominal fee of $25 each.  We will have 30 minutes that our mentor will be presenting on the topic.  Then the following 30 minutes will be an opportunity for an open discussion amongst all callers on that topic.  During that time, we can brainstorm, share experiences, and ask questions while we learn from each other with the guidance of our mentor. We understand that not everyone is at the point in their CIL or SILC to have a peer mentoring, but we want to support and assist the best way we can with these calls. 

Strengthening Youth Involvement in Your CIL
December 6th, 2017 3:00-4:00pm EST (2:00pm CST, 1:00pm MST, 12:00pm PST)
Presenter: Grant Heffelfinger
$25 Per Site

Register for December 6th call here.

Description:  Having trouble keeping youth involved in your CIL programming? Are you struggling to keep the youths’ attention? This session will equip you with strategies to hosting a youth-friendly environment/event at your CIL. Attendees will be able to develop the skills needed to naturally include youth with disabilities in programs, services, and issues that are important to the youth. There will be examples of events that have worked well that included youth with disabilities at other CILs. This webinar will help CIL staff get the youth passionate about the issues that affect them!

Save the Date for the 2018 Schedule
2:00-3:30pm EST (1:00-2:30pm CST, 12:00-1:30pm MST, 11:00am-12:30pm PST)

  • February 7th, 2018- Sierra Royster and Paula McElwee -Youth Service Making Sense of the FAQ
  • April 4th, 2018- Dustin Gibson -The Impact of School Suspensions
  • June 6th, 2018– Zach Garafalo and Melissa Ann Santora Youth at the Table and Active SILC Members
  • August 1st, 2018- Charlie Walters-Balancing Systems Advocacy Efforts with Self-Advocacy Skill Development in K-12 Education
  • October 3rd, 2018- Susan Cervellera-Disability History
  • December 5th, 2018- Grant Heffelfinger-LGBTQ+ Community

Member Rates: Annual Rate (registering and paying for all 6 trainings in the series): $180
Per Training Rate: $35

Non-Member Rates: Annual Rate (registering and paying for all 6 trainings in the series): $250
Per Training Rate: $50




Join our youth advocacy committee today by contacting Sierra Royster @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The APRIL Youth Advocacy Training Recordings

A training in partnership with University of Montana RTC: Rural Research & Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities. Learn more about self and systems advocacy, the disability right law and how they affect you, and how to speak up in your community to see change happen.  This was lead by Mike Beers and the Summit Independent Living Center, BASE staff. Click the palyer to listen. 

June 14th, 2017 

June 28th, 2017 

July 12th, 2017

July 26th, 2017 

University of Montana RTC: Rural Research & Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities.

Using Improv to Teach Advocacy: RTC: Rural Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit   

Direct Link is http://rtc.ruralinstitute.umt.edu/resources/advocacy-skill-building-toolkit/

RTC:Rural is excited to release the Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit, a new set of resources for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and others to facilitate workshops to develop the advocacy skills of emerging Independent Living leaders and youth with disabilities. The Toolkit is a collaboration between BASE, an affiliate of Summit Independent Living in Missoula, MT, the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), and RTC:Rural staff, and was developed in response to the needs and interests of CILs and other stakeholders.

This Training is a Partnership with University of Montana RTC: Rural Research & Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities. RTC: Rural research is supported by grant #90RT50250100 from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research within the Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services. The opinions expressed reflect those of the author and are not necessarily those of the funding agency.

For more information contact Sierra Royster, Youth Programs Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 919-567-3602  

youth 2012youth with disabilities standing in front of the road to freedom bus. to the right a chalk drawn picture of justin dart jr.youth group photo 2014