Youth Learning Institute's Youth Practitioner Award

The US Play Coalition partners each year with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute for their annual Youth Development Practitioner Award.  The purpose of this award is to recognize outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.  The YLI award winner is honored during the Annual Conference on the Value of Play.

“There are many deserving practitioners across the nation, and our goal is to bring recognition to this field of service,” said Stephen Lance, executive director of the Youth Learning Institute.

First awarded at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play, the YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award winner receives a physical award, social media coverage, free full conference registration and more for the annual Conference on the Value of Play. 

Previous YLI Award Winners

2022 – Doug Smith – Adapted Physical Education Consulting Teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) Schools’ Programs for Exceptional Children & a founding member of the new Partners for PLAY initiative pilot program in Charlotte, NC.

2021 – Joyce Hemphill, PhD – play advocate, play consultant and retired professor of child development.  She is co-author of The Power of Playful Learning.

2020 – Jessica Hentoff, is artistic/executive director of Circus Harmony, a St. Louis based non-profit that uses circus arts to motivate social change.  It is both an arts education and a youth development organization.

2019 – Flo Brett, founder of the Effective Leadership Academy (Warrensville Heights, OH).  The Academy and its 135 partners (and counting) has helped more than 20,000 students learn “real world” skills they need to be successful after they graduate.

2018 – Pat “The Play Lady”Rumbaugh, is co-founder of Let’s Play America. She founded the organization TakomaPlays! in Takoma Park, Maryland, in March 2009. TakomaPlays! is now part of Let’s Play America.

2017 – Dan Mathews, chief operating officer at Camp Twin Lakes, a Georgia-based organization that provides camp experiences for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges.  According to his nomination, Dan is “a champion for all youth using play as the center of his outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in furthering development, access, and professionalism of the field of youth-development…He is an excellent standard bearer for the inaugural Youth Development Practitioner Award.”

Award Application Process

To recognize outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.

Must have operated a youth development program or service within the United States for at least 10 or more years. (The nominee does NOT have to be affiliated with Clemson University.)

Evaluation Criteria:
Applicants should show evidence of as many of met criteria in their submitted statement.

  • Accomplishments serve as an example for other youth serving programs.
  • Program/service demonstrates best practices and a nurturing culture that supports inclusivity and human resilience.
  • Outreach efforts promote youth development programs and encourage support and participation from the community at-large.
  • Equips young people to lead and serve, through direct work with youth and by training other practitioners.
  • Demonstrates positive impact on lives of young people and leads by example.
  • Demonstrates high level of leadership, professionalism and integrity in the field of youth development.
  • Strengthens the field of youth work by providing quality training opportunities for youth workers to maximize their investment in young people.
  • Focuses on attempts to improve the quality of youth services by providing training standards and improving program function.
  • Shares best practices with other youth practitioners or serves as a liaison in the community to create a network of participation and sharing of ideas/knowledge.
  • Program/service demonstrates exceptional commitment to public service and/or educational leadership.