National Leadership Conference

Open to all

June 10-17, 2018

The AYF’s longest running program, the National Leadership Conference (NLC) creates confident leaders equipped to make a positive impact on our ever-changing world.  Held annually at Miniwanca in Shelby, Michigan, this 8-day conference brings together high school and college students from diverse backgrounds, providing them with the opportunity to develop, practice and implement leadership skills that will play an essential role throughout the rest of their lives.

The conference’s highly committed and experienced staff guides participants as they explore what it means to live at their very best, offering healthy challenges in a supportive and nurturing environment.

NLC operates on a four year progressive curriculum. Every first-year member is placed in a class that will stay together each year until conference graduation, ensuring that no matter where they are from, every participant will have a place in this diverse and vibrant community.

National Leadership Conference

Open to all

1st & 2nd year: June 10-17, 2018
3rd & 4th year: June 9-17, 2018

Age: First Years entering 10th, 11th or 12th grade

1st & 2nd year: $785
3rd & 4th year: $615

If you or a young adult you know is interested in attending conference, we may be able to help.


A Day in the Life

Frequently Asked Questions

What is it like living in a cabin?

Each cabin has bunk beds and can accommodate up to eight people. The cabins are rustic with centralized restrooms and shower houses. There is no electricity in the cabins. Men and women are housed geographically separate and do not enter each other’s living quarters or cabin areas.

Will I feel included at conference?

We enthusiastically welcome people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and identities. We value each participant’s right to fully experience Miniwanca free from prejudice and harassment. All of our staff members are trained to supervise children and to prevent and address incidents of conflict or bullying based on any aspect of a person’s identity, including, but not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation.

What do you mean by "challenge by choice"?

As a participant, you are empowered to choose the right level of challenge for yourself in any particular activity. Our expectation is that you will participate, but you get to determine how. Conference staff members are trained to help participants assess what will work for them.

What is the weather like at Miniwanca?

It is not unusual for the weather to vary quite a bit during the week of the conference. As a general rule, it is usually warm during the day (75° – 95°F), cool in the evenings (50° – 60° F), and chilly at night (40° – 60° F).

What are the behavior expectations?

To create a healthy, respectful, inclusive, and supportive community, we challenge you to see and expect the best in yourself and others. Your conference community needs your immediate and constant commitment, trust, and support for living and learning. The community expects you to value, be inclusive, and be accepting of others. We are confident that if you maintain a high standard for yourself, you will have an outstanding conference experience.

“Attending Camp Miniwanca has stayed with me my entire life. I learned to be responsible for myself, to rely on my peers and work together to achieve our goals. My experience at camp meeting people from different walks of life has translated into my professional life. I can sit down and talk to anyone and not judge them and accept them for who they are and what they have to contribute.”

– Former Conference Participant


Jennifer Mason Scholarship

A former NLC participant, Jennifer Mason died of ovarian cancer in September, 2014. One of her last requests was to create a scholarship fund to allow a First Year participant to attend NLC each summer. Applicants must be between 15-18 years old.


Earnest Scholarship

Open to any young person, the Earnest Scholarship covers full tuition for a First Year participant. Applicants must be between 15-18 years old.


I Dare You! Scholarship

If you received the National Leadership Award through your local service organization, Kiwanis, 4-H or High School, then you are eligible to apply for the I Dare You! Scholarship.  National Leadership Award recipients must complete the application process to be considered for the I Dare You! Scholarship to attend the National Leadership Conference. This scholarship is intended for incoming First Year participants. Scholarship winners will be contacted by the AYF.


Danny Grad Scholarship

In 1943, William H. Danforth created a program for young women whom he felt were leaders but were without the opportunity to “test their bent and ability,” calling them the Danny Grads.  Even though the program came to an end, these women found that their Danny Grad experience was formative in launching them on their years of service.  To continue the Danny Grad legacy and provide new opportunities for life-changing experiences, they created the “Danny Grad” Scholarship Fund.  The purpose of this fund is to enable young women of color, between 15 – 18 years old with financial need, to attend the National Leadership Conference.



We also encourage you to seek out individuals in your community willing to assist you in getting to the NLC.  There is nothing more powerful than a story of personal growth to inspire a local business person, family, church/synagogue association, or other personal affiliate to contribute toward funding your experience.  Here are a few tips that might assist in your fundraising efforts.

  • Think locally.  Local businesses are typically willing to help out their community more than a large corporation.
  • Create a list of potential donors.  Think about people at common social activities, religious activities, workplaces of your parent/guardian, businesses you frequently patronize, extended family members. Having a large list from which to pull will only increase your chances of funding.
  • Think small. It is much easier for a person to give $10, $20 or $30 rather than feel like they have to shoulder the burden of sponsoring your entire trip.
  • Be professional and demonstrate your leadership skills.  Make an appointment to meet with the potential funder ahead of time and then be 15 minutes early, dressed appropriately.
  • Be gracious.  Share with them why you want to come to the NLC and how it can positively impact your life.  Thank them for their time, even if they say that they are not interested.
  • Report out. Be sure to follow up with any funders with a nice, handwritten note and a phone call to express your gratitude.  After NLC, be sure to follow up with them, show them pictures and tell them how their donation helped you.

Please also, do not hesitate to contact us if you would like additional assistance in order to participate in the National Leadership Conference.