A New Cohort of Young Leaders Emerges
SACOG celebrates Youth Leadership Academy Class of 2022


July 5, 2022: A new group of leaders has graduated from the Youth Leadership Academy, wrapping up its fourth year. This brings the total number of alumni to more than 150 students from across the region! The Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) provides a unique hands-on learning experience for high school students in the Sacramento region. Students engage with the work SACOG does as a regional planning agency, as well as participate in the civic engagement process, to gain an understanding of local government. The program is focused on the connections between the public and private sectors, and how they are intertwined. In a closing survey, a student expressed how all the different topics came together for them: “[I’ve learned] how interconnected issues in communities are!”

This year, students kicked off with a new addition to the program, Clifton StrengthsFinder, which focused on helping students understand their individual strengths and how to apply them. As young leaders, identifying their strongest skills helps them navigate team dynamics and understand how they learn and work. The workshops throughout the six months revisited their top strengths to build up their comfort with and knowledge of how to use them.

Students had the ability to connect to leadership across the region and learn directly from those working in the field and making decisions. YLA workshops focused on various topics and featured special guests including:

  • Presentations on SACOG’s 2024 Blueprint and the Sacramento Regional Trails plan;
  • A discussion on environmental justice challenges and opportunities presented by our partner and funder, SMUD;
  • A group field trip to the Sacramento International Airport for a behind-the-scenes look at airport operations and economic and environmental impacts;
  • Presentations from SACOG directors including Jill Gayaldo of Rocklin, Wendy Thomas of El Dorado County, and Darren Suen of Elk Grove;
  • Discussions about transportation planning from the City of Sacramento’s transportation planning manager, Jennifer Donlon Wyant; and
  • A presentation on housing by the State of California’s Housing and Community Development Deputy Director of Communications Monica Hernández.

YLA allows students an opportunity to explore public sector career options and how they can get involved with local government as citizens. When asked what they gained from the program, one student shared that YLA “expanded my view/thoughts on topics I didn’t even know applied to me! From where I live, I wasn’t too familiar with issues in the Sacramento region and now I am! Overall, it’s been a great experience that has further expanded my learning and my voice.”

This video created by 2022 YLA students, Danny Nguyen and Logan Nguyen, showcases how students are able to communicate what they’ve learned from the program. The video highlights the 2024 Blueprint principles and how they help build vibrant communities. 

A special thank you to YLA partners and peer coordinators

As the 2022 class ends, SACOG extends many thanks to the program partners at PRO Youth and Families who helped SACOG launch this initiative and have been on the implementation team for the past four years. This program would not be what it is without the dedicated staff members who have shaped it into a great program we are incredibly proud of. In addition, YLA alumni continue to participate as peer coordinators who help keep the program running smoothly and offer a student perspective to ensure we learn and grow each year. Thank you!


YLA is an annual program for high school students in 9th–12th grade within the six-county Sacramento region. Applications open in Fall 2022 with workshops beginning in January 2023. If you are interested in the program, please contact Rosie Ramos for more information at rramos@sacog.org.

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