Legacy Youth Leadership (“Legacy”) is a nonprofit organization that is building better leaders who will build a better world. Legacy knows that young people are not just the future, they are the present. Legacy provides free youth leadership and mentoring programs in low-income school communities that teach students how to use their time, their money, their voice, and their vote so they can be leaders TODAY.  We prioritize making our programs available to students living in low-income & underserved communities. Legacy’s Programs develop, mentor, and equip young people with the skills & experience they need to reach their academic goals, make a REAL impact on the world around them, and thrive.

Legacy Youth Leadership was born out of another organization, The Thirst Project. For more than a decade, this youth-founded, youth-led organization worked with millions of high school and college students with a singular purpose — to activate young people around the specific cause of ending the global water crisis. The extent of students’ work with Thirst Project was almost exclusively to raise money to build water projects around the world.  

The Thirst Project remains the world’s largest youth water organization. It was easy for the team there to point to the impact they made on the global water crisis: the number of water projects built, the number of people given clean water, and the reduction of waterborne disease rates over time. But the organization was ALSO making a dramatic impact on youth culture, apart from how much money we could help students fundraise to build water projects. In coaching students to raise money, students were also learning how to be better communicators, public speakers, how to knit together teams, and build strategic plans. 

Over the course of four years, the team at Thirst Project worked with social scientists at the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California to measure the impact that the organization’s school programs had on students from one year before to one year after participation in these programs. The results were incredible.

Through these programs, students learned and developed 14+ different hard and soft skills that were critical for their academic careers and professional careers, including communication, public speaking, organization, strategic planning, goal setting, and fundraising. And while developing students’ skills was not the primary mission of Thirst Project, the team soon realized it was happening. Students could use these skills not just to make an impact on the water crisis, but any social issue. The team realized that they could design and improve programs not just to help students raise money for a cause, but to help students intentionally develop these skills and become leaders themselves. 

It was clear there were two very distinct missions: one to fundraise to build water projects to help end the global water crisis, and the other, to intentionally develop young peoples’ leadership skills so that they can change the world. To give each of these missions the attention and resources they deserved, Legacy Youth Leadership was created, an organization dedicated to develop young peoples’ leadership skills and help them apply those skills to build a better world.

The reality that our students are living with is THIS.

  1. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young Americans ages 10-23. *
  2. 10 Million young people ages 12-20 abuse alcohol, and 90% of that is consumed through binge drinking. *
  3. 6.3 Million young people aged 3-17 years-old suffer from anxiety or depression. *
  4. 34% High School graduates do not go on to higher education that same year. *
  5. Children from low-income families are three times less likely to participate in after-school programs.*
  6. By sixth grade, middle-income students will have spent nearly 4,000 more hours in after-school and summer learning programs than their lower-income peers.*

BUT…the counter to that is, we ALSO know that when students get involved in these kinds of programs:

  1. 90% of young people who participate in extracurricular programs are less likely to commit suicide. *
  2. Young people who volunteer are 50% less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol & cigarettes. *
  3. Students who volunteer at least 10 hours per week are much less likely to feel depressed than those who don’t. *
  4. 75% of colleges state that extracurriculars are an important determining factor in the admission process. *

To help students develop the skills they need to take action around the causes they care about most, we built TWO programs: Our Leadership Program and our Speaker Program. If you are familiar with Masterclass, think “Masterclass” but to help young people develop the skills they need to change the world. 

These are FREE EDUCATION programs for students no matter what community they come from.

It is incumbent upon us morally and ethically to ensure that we disproportionately provide access to these programs in schools and communities that historically have not had as many leadership development opportunities. Because of this, we have prioritized offering our programs in schools whose students and families are low-income (below the national median household income) and Title 1 schools.

Once students complete these programs and have learned these skills, they APPLY them by taking action to raise awareness of and funds for the causes they care about the most.

We are impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people every day, and ushering in the next generation of young leaders. A new day is coming. And the young people are here.

Seth Maxwell, Founder & CEO