YPI is an advanced leadership development program that channels the energy of teens to build stronger communities. Over the course of three years, 25 teenagers from around the Tulsa area form a cohort. Together they identify a single focus issue (issues from previous cohorts include: adolescent depression, healthy dating relationships, negative impacts of media, volunteerism) and create a project to improve conditions for other teens. At the conclusion of YPI, students will have created a prototype of their program that can be implemented in other communities.
YPI is the vision of Lynn Schusterman, an internationally recognized philanthropist who has a passion for bettering the lives of young people. She believes it is of the upmost importance to prepare the leaders of tomorrow today. There are several programs around the country that promote philanthropic values to teens. The factors that make YPI unique: 1) intensity: most programs are one year while YPI is three years 2) autonomy: YPI is truly student-led. Students make all the key decisions about their project 3) resources: Each cohort is provided a significant amount of funds ($30,000) to apply to their project. In addition, the University of Oklahoma proudly hosts YPI and makes their considerable resources available to the students in the form of facilities and content experts. YPI is staffed by two adult facilitators who have a passion for youth leadership and are committed to creating a positive experience for teens to thrive.
Once a cohort is selected, students jump right into action with a kick-off retreat. This is where they get to know each other, become a team and establish the foundation for the road ahead. Because this retreat is so important, attendance is required. From then on, the students meet monthly at the University of Oklahoma-Schusterman Center. The monthly meetings are all day, which means arrangements must be made for transportation and missed classes. The focus of each meeting students learn about philanthropy, leadership, self-awareness and community-building. This is also when the cohort focuses on their project and make decisions for how to advance it. Students get to learn from guest speakers who are leaders from around the community. In between monthly meetings, the cohort is divided into committees to work on critical pieces of their project. Committees meet weekly for an average of 1-2 hours. There are also individual duties that students must complete.
Graduates of YPI frequently comment on how formative this experience is to their sense of self and community. They are able to gain skills and experiences that other students often aren’t exposed to until after college. YPI graduates consistently express how they have advantages over their peers because of their ability to organize and execute complicated projects. Participants in the program are treated as adults. As such, one of the greatest benefits is the ability to work with professionals. YPI recognizes that teens are experts in regards to the challenges and culture of being a teen today. This puts them in the position to understand the challenges teens face better than most adults could. Participants in YPI learn about their unique talents and this helps them navigate college major and career choices to find their unique calling. These are just some of the many benefits. Specifically, students hone their skills in the following areas:
- working in teams
- time management and personal organization
- communication—writing, public speaking
- project planning
- conflict management
- problem solving
YPI is demanding. It is strongly encouraged that students carefully consider how many extra-curricular activities they belong to. YPI places priority on academic performance first and foremost. After that, YPI is looking for students who are willing to make YPI their next most important commitment. There are expectations in order to remain in YPI, which include: attendance at all monthly meetings (except for pre-arranged absences), active participation in committees, responsive communication (i.e. emails), and positive interaction with peers. Specifically, students should expect to attend monthly meetings (8 hours/month), committee meetings (1-2 hours/week) and individual assignments (1-2 hours/week).
There are far more applicants to a YPI cohort than there are slots available (approximately 25 students per cohort). Because of the intense investment made in YPI students, it’s critical that participants are carefully selected. The process is as follows:
- Submit an online application by the deadline (details on our Apply Online page).
- The applications will be reviewed by the Selection Committee and the top 50 students will be invited to interview.
- Once the interviews are complete, final selections will be communicated.
There is no cost for students to apply to or participate in YPI. Meals are provided. Students are never asked to pay for anything related to YPI. That said, students are expected to have transportation to all meetings so parental support is critical.
Philanthropy is at the core of YPI and is its most important value. Therefore, the ideal YPI-er has a passion for making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Students should demonstrate basic skills that would be necessary for any vocation: communication, professionalism, reliability/responsiveness. A key trait of successful applicants is maturity. YPI treats students as adults so if the parents are the ones who keep the student on top of things then YPI may not be a good fit. Students who are over-involved in other activities may also not be a good fit for YPI. YPI believes in a strengths-based philosophy. Part of that means that doing “everything” is often at the expense of focused quality. YPI has found that students who take on too much, outside of studies, often have scheduling conflicts and competing priorities.
The main reason someone would not do well in YPI is that it was not something he or she was not passionate about. In past exit interviews with students who were dismissed from the program a common theme was that YPI was something their parents wanted them to do instead of something the student wanted. The student needs to personally see the value of this type of experience because it is intensive and requires personal investment.
YPI is an extremely impressive thing to have on a college application because of what students learn and experience. It is also unique to Tulsa so it makes a student stand out. Unfortunately, some students apply to YPI because it “looks good” on a resume. This is absolutely not a good reason to apply to YPI because the reason it stands out is because of the level of commitment required. YPI does not allow students to remain in the program if they are not active contributors. There is no substitute for personal investment of time and passion. For that reason, students who are divided among many commitments can often struggle.