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How Shanica Became an Effective, Strengths-Based Leader

Shanica was no stranger to the behavioral health system. She had navigated it, struggled to use her voice, and sometimes didn’t know how to advocate for herself.

Still, she wanted to give back. She wanted to be an advocate for young adults who were currently part of the mental health system. “Having learned and observed things that helped me navigate that system better—I wanted to share that,” she said.

But how? As a professional in this field, she knew she wanted to support other young adults in their journey by sharing her experiences. But she wasn’t sure of the best way to advocate for them and herself or how to share her story. She’d heard of some leadership training before, but they weren’t by youth, for youth, or even tailored to her experience in the behavioral health system. And, she admits, she was too focused on her weaknesses.

This is what drew her to attend Youth MOVE National’s Youth Advocate Leadership Academy. Our Leadership Academy gives young adults the skills needed to make a change in their communities and the systems that serve them. We do it by leveraging every young adult’s lived experience as an asset to make change happen.

Thanks to supporters of Youth MOVE National, we’ve been able to take the Youth Advocate Leadership Academy to new states across the U.S.

Shanica wasn’t sure what to expect when she attended the Academy in Pennsylvania last April. “I hadn’t been to a lot of training specifically for young adults previously,” she said. “That’s why I was interested in this training. Because it was for youth.”

The Youth Advocate Leadership Academy is not only for youth, but it’s also designed and vetted by youth. It was co-created with youth advisors and is facilitated by young adults, too. It’s one of the many aspects of this unique training that Shanica truly appreciated.

“I loved learning how our personal values impact the work we do,” she said. “And knowing your comfort zone, your growth zone, and your stretch zone is invaluable as a leader.”

These days, Shanica says she’s using what she’s learned in her everyday work. It’s helped her be more productive. And the youth-facilitation of the Leadership Academy showed her ways to be a more efficient and effective leader. “I’ve already used what I learned in different committees and meetings at work. It’s also given me insight into how facilitators set up various meetings, workshops, and training.”

But there’s one element she valued most. “I really appreciated learning about a strengths-based approach, being aware of what your strengths are and how to work together with those who have different strengths.”

But that’s not the only way the Leadership Academy has changed her life. She said it’s had an impact on her personal growth, too.

“I have seen a change within myself. I have become more self-aware. Before the training, I used to work from my weaknesses. Now, I’m taking the time to learn more about my strengths and working toward applying them.”


Shanica said she would most definitely recommend the Leadership Academy for other young adults who are interested in leadership development. “It’s amazing. You gain insight into yourself and insight into others, and you gain knowledge to help pursue your leadership goals.”

Your gift to Youth MOVE National takes the Youth Advocate Leadership Academy to more places nationwide, ensuring other young adults like Shanica impact systems and communities for good. Your support helps young adults not just find their voice—but use it effectively. This includes training them, advocating for them, and educating adults on how best to work with them. We believe strongly that all youth are leaders. Sometimes they just need a little support.

Let’s keep fighting for youth voice—together.

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