The YLDP was launched in September 2008 with seven high school partners, each selecting ten students to represent their high school in the YLDP. In November of 2008 Lawson State and Jefferson State Community Colleges became the first YLDP College/Operating Partners by providing volunteer leaders to assist in developing and administering the YLDP. Additionally, both Lawson State and Jefferson State provided coordinators (scholarship students) to work as facilitators for student groups and activities. Unprecedentedly, Lawson State President, Dr. Perry Ward and Jefferson State President, Dr. Judy Merritt committed two Presidential Scholarships each to the top students of “character” from the YLDP.
Colleges had for many years provided scholarships to students who had academic achievement and those who had athletic achievement, but never before to students who demonstrated the highest of character. These two special leaders, who themselves possessed the highest of character, broke new ground in higher education’s goal to develop and provide the leaders of tomorrow for our society.
Wallace State Community College, Hanceville joined the YLDP as an Operating Partner in 2013 under the Leadership of President, Vickie Karolewics. This partnership allowed the YLDP to expand to three new counties, providing many more high schools the opportunity to participate in the YLDP. In addition to providing personnel and scholarships, Dr. Karolewics immediately brought a renewed energy to the YLDP, generating new ideas and direction to the YLDP.
Currently, the YLDP has 93 High School Partners that each chooses up to four seniors and two juniors to represent their high school, three College-Operating Partners, Lawson State, Wallace State, Jefferson State, and nineteen College Partners, in total providing over $1.5 million in scholarship opportunities for students of character.