Youth & Parent Summit

The Youth and Parent Summit is a three-day event held each June and sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education and the Partnership for People with Disabilities. Youth with disabilities from across the Commonwealth meet to network and discuss issues of importance to youth and young adults with disabilities.

During the Summit, participants work in groups facilitated by I’m Determined Youth Leaders to discover how the Elements of I’m Determined can be applied to their lives. Summit attendees are expected to return to their home schools and communities to share the self-determination message.

Parents/guardians of accepted youth attend a Parent Summit. Those attending have an opportunity to network with other parents and professionals and get information about the newest regulations, programs and practices. For more information regarding the Parent Summit, click the “Parent Summit FAQs” tab.

When: June 10-12, 2020

Where: James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Who: Virginia youth with disabilities ages 13-21 and parent(s)

Applications will open in January 2020. Due Date: February 15, 2020 by 5:00 pm. *Please note that the application will shut down at 5:00 pm. If your application has not been submitted at this time, you will not be eligible to attend. Thank you for submitting before the deadline!

Applications will be reviewed and acceptance letters will be emailed by March 15, 2020. 120 youth will be accepted. All applicants will receive an email letting them know if they were accepted or not.

All accepted youth will be emailed detailed information about the Summit closer to the event’s date.

Q1: Who can apply to the Youth and Parent Summit?

A: Virginia youth with disabilities between the ages of 13-21 can apply to participate in the Youth and Parent Summit. Each youth must apply separately – please do not put two names on one application, even if they are siblings. 

Q2: Should my son or daughter apply?

A: Watch the video below!


Q3: Do parents need to apply?

A: Parents do not apply for the Youth and Parent Summit. Only youth apply, and accepted youth under 18 must have a parent/guardian attend with them. Accepted youth over 18 may attend on their own or have a parent/guardian attend with them. Parents attend a separate Parent Summit that happens at the same time as the Youth Summit. If you have more than one youth applying, please make sure they fill out separate applications.

Q4: What should I prepare before starting an application?

A: There are a few things that are helpful to have ready before you start the application process:

  • Working email address – All communication, including acceptance and denial letters, are sent through email. Please make sure that you use an email address that is working and that you can access easily. Also, make sure you enter the email address carefully when prompted so that our communication gets to you. Some school systems block outside emails, so if you are using a student email address, please make sure that your school does not block emails that come in from outside of thier division. We suggest that you use a personal email address if you have one.
  • Demographic information – Your address, phone number, email address, and school information (if still attending school) is all part of the application information. The same goes for your parent/guardian. Having this information ready will allow you to complete your application faster.
  • Essay Responses – See Q8 for more information.

Q5: What happens once I submit my application?

Once you click submit, you will automatically receive a confirmation email stating that we have received your application. At this point, your application is complete, and we have everything we need to begin processing it. After the application team has processed all applications, you will be notified by email whether you were accepted or not.

Q6: I didn’t receive a confirmation email. What should I do?

A: There are usually two reasons this might happen:

  1. Your email system is not allowing it to come through. Check your Spam or Junk folder to see if it is there. If you don’t see it there, your email system may have blocked it completely. This sometimes happens when using student email addresses from school divisions. Please contact us if you feel that you did not recieve a confirmation.
  2. The email address that you provided was not entered correctly. If this is the case, we need to correct your email address. Contact and let us know about your issue.

Q7: Can I receive assistance when filling out the application?

A: Yes, we encourage youth with all ability levels to apply, and understand that some individuals will need assistance or accommodations when filling out the application. For the essay portion, we do want to see youth-generated work. This doesn’t mean that the youth performed each task necessary to complete the essay, but that the answers provided represent who they are.

Q8: Can you tell me more about the essay?

A: First off, don’t let the word essay fool you! You are simply answering a few questions so that we can get to know you better (we don’t count off for spelling, grammar, etc.). Having your essay answers ready ahead of time will allow you to apply much faster. We encourage you to answer your essay questions in one of two ways:

  1. In a word processing document, type your answers, save it, and then copy and paste your answers into the form so that you have a back-up copy available. Each question has a 100 word limit, so think carefully about how you want to answer the question!
  2. Record a video or audio of yourself answering the questions. Save the recording, and upload it to an online storage folder (such as Google Drive or Dropbox). Copy the sharing link, and paste that link into the answer box. You can use 1 recording for all of your answers, or you can do separate recordings for each question. Each question has a 1-minute limit, so think carefully about how you want to answer the question! Anything beyond the 1-minute mark will not be scored as part of your application.

Q9: How are applications processed? Is it first-come, first-served?

A: All applications that are received by the deadline are given to our review team after the application window has closed. Turning in your application early does not give any extra weight to your application. However, we do encourage you to apply as soon as you can. This will give you time to fill it out thoroughly without needing to rush, and will also allow time to fix any issues, should they occur. All applications are processed equally by our team, who looks for authenticity, completeness of each component, and for the application to represent the youth who is applying.


For all other questions, feel free to send a message to

Who should attend the I’m Determined Youth Summit?

What is the Youth Summit like?

What is a dorm room like?

What is an accessible dorm room like?

What is dining like at the Summit?

JMU Dining Services does a wonderful job of labeling all food with allergens and ingredients. Dining Services staff are extremely helpful with this and love to make sure everyone is well fed. They are also always happy to meet with your or talk on the phone ahead of time so that they can fully understand and prepare for each situation. 

What kind of support will my son or daughter have at the Summit?

The Youth & Parent Summit offers many layers of support for each participant. First, whenever possible, we practice Universal Design for Learning strategies. This means, that we try to plan all activities and assignments in a way that anyone can access them and be included. While it’s not always possible for every single thing, we always start with that in mind, and offer accommodations for anyone who needs them.
Second, we have a full staff at the Summit who are ready to help as needed. For parts of the Summit, your son or daughter will be with you, and you are responsible for them at those times. For most of Thursday, and for part of Friday, they will be in a group of about 30-35 other youth. There will be one or two of our State Youth Leaders with their group, as well as adults (usually 1-3, depending on the needs of those in that group) who will always be with that group. The group travels together to different sessions. At these sessions, a group of about 5-6 State Youth Leaders will lead the session, as well as two State Coordinators (adults) who help as needed. Beyond that, we have floaters who come and go, again depending on the need of those in the groups. Beyond those floaters, there are at least two adults (State Coordinators) stationed at a central location to handle any needs that are beyond the reach of all the other layers. The floaters and adult helpers that we use are mostly trained professionals (special education teachers, behavior analysts, specialists, who come recommended to us as people who can work with whoever comes.
For many parents, this may be the first time coming to an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people, and being separated from their child. We get it…this is not an easy thing to do! Because of this, we always have direct communication set up with those leading the Parent Summit, so that we can communicate any needs necessary.
Once we have our group of accepted youth, we send out another survey, where you are able to describe any accommodations, supports, etc. that your son or daughter would need to have a successful experience. We then use that information to figure out how may support people to hire, how many adults to assign to specific groups, etc. We have one of our staff members call each family to have a conversation and make sure we have what you’ll need. At the event, we encourage our State Youth Leaders to provide as much support as possible before asking an adult to provide that support. This looks different for everyone, but our goal is for each participant to experience a youth-led Summit where they feel as much success as possible.

For all other questions, feel free to send a message to

What is the I’m Determined Parent Summit?
The I’m Determined Parent Summit is a three-day networking and learning event for parent(s)/guardian(s) of youth who apply and are accepted to attend the I’m Determined Youth Summit. Youth attend a youth-only event, and parent(s)/guardian(s) attend a nearby Parent Summit event. The Parent Summit has been hosted by the Center for Family Involvement since 2008.

When and where is the Parent Summit?
The Parent Summit, and the I’m Determined Youth Summit, is held each June on the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.

Who can attend the Parent Summit?
Virginia students with a disability, age 13-21 (by the first day of the event), are encouraged to apply to attend the I’m Determined Youth Summit. Typically, 120 or more youth are accepted to attend. An adult family member or guardian must accompany youth under 18 years of age. All adults who accompany a youth to the summit are registered to attend the Parent Summit.

What if I or my youth has specific needs such as a special diet, interpreting services, a personal attendant or a physically accessible room?
Every effort will be made to meet needs of all who come. Accessible lodging is available. Those who are accepted will receive a form to fill out requesting any dietary needs, as well as personal or room accommodations.

Why should parents want to attend the summit?

Watch the video below!


What is the process for filling out my youth’s application?
Typically, in early January each year, the I’m Determined Youth Summit application is posted on Youth can get assistance from a parent or teacher in completing the application prior to the application deadline. Applications are reviewed and decisions are made about acceptance by early spring.

When are applicants notified of acceptance?
Each spring, applicants are contacted regarding their acceptance. At that time, additional information is gathered from all accepted applicants.

If my youth is accepted, do I have to attend?
An adult family member or guardian must accompany youth under 18 years of age. All adults who accompany a youth are registered to attend the Parent Summit.

Can more than one parent or guardian attend with a single youth?
Yes, pending availability, family members are welcome to attend.

Does the Parent Summit cost anything?
No. This event is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education. Lodging is provided for youth and their parent(s)/guardian(s), free of charge, in conveniently located JMU dormitories. Free meal passes are provided to allow both youth and parents/guardians to receive all meals in the beautiful East Campus Dining Hall at JMU, reserved for summit participants. Mileage to and from the event is reimbursed by completing a form once at the summit (a reimbursement check is mailed within four to six weeks). Bringing personal spending money is optional.

What do I need to bring with me to the Parent Summit?
Once accepted, youth and parent(s)/guardian(s) will receive information with specific directions and suggestions for what you may want to bring with you to make your stay more comfortable. Linens, including towels, and a pillow and blanket are provided for each person attending.

For all other questions, feel free to send a message to

***Please note – this is not the actual schedule, but typically this is what the youth follow. Parent sessions may differ slightly depending on the format of the Parent Summit. Accepted youth and parents will receive an updated, detailed schedule before the event. 

Day 1 – Wednesday

1:00pm – 5:00pm – Registration & Move-in

5:00pm – 7:00pm – Dinner

7:00pm – 8:00pm – Opening Session

8:00pm – 9:00pm – Youth Ice-breaker activity/Parent info meeting

Day 2 – Thursday

7:00am – 8:30am – Breakfast

9:00am – 10:15am – Opening Session (Youth & Parents)

10:30am – 12:00pm – Concurrent Summit Sessions

12:00pm – 1:00pm – Lunch

1:00pm – 4:30pm – Concurrent Summit Sessions (1-hour rotations)

5:30pm – 7:30pm – Dinner

7:00pm – 9:30pm – Youth Social/Parent Networking

Day 3 – Friday

6:30am – 8:15am – Breakfast

8:30am – 11:00am – Concurrent Summit Sessions

11:15am – 1:00pm – Closing Session (Youth & Parents)

1:00pm – 3:00pm – Lunch & Move-out


How do I apply?
We are no longer accepting applications. Thanks to all who applied. 


For more information or questions, please contact: or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter.

Days Until 2020 Youth & Parent Summit!