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National Youth Leadership Forum

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National Youth Leadership Forum

Envision EMI, LLC
Type Private
Founded 1985 – 2011 (2011)
Founder(s) Barbara Harris
Richard Rossi
Headquarters Vienna, Virginia
Area served Worldwide
Subsidiaries Congressional Youth Leadership Council, National Young Leadership Forum, International Scholar Laureate Program, National Young Scholars Program

Envision EMI, LLC is a privately held, for-profit education company that creates, markets and runs ten youth leadership programs under various names. The company develops curriculum for, markets, manages, and produces a variety of educational experiences, including leadership and career-oriented education programs, for elementary school through college-age students. The company is based in Vienna, Virginia and runs its organizations' programs across the world. EMI stands for "Educate, Motivate and Inspire."[1] Since its founding, nearly 600,000 young people from all 50 of the United States, as well as several other countries, have attended Envision EMI education conferences.

In 2010 the Better Business Bureau of Metro Washington D.C. and Eastern Pennsylvania restored the company's “A+” rating and its accreditation after downgrading it to an F rating following problems with its 2009 Presidential Youth Inaugural Conferences.[2]

In October 2011, substantially all the assets of Envision EMI, LLC were acquired by Leadership Platform Acquisition Corporation (“LPAC”), an affiliate of Gryphon Investors, which describes itself as "a highly respected San Francisco based private equity firm with a strong commitment to the field of education."[3]


Founding and purpose

Founded in 1985 by Barbara Harris and Richard Rossi,[4] both who are no longer affiliated with the company, Envision EMI plans, organizes, and runs seminars, programs, and conferences around the world. As of 2006, Envision EMI had over 200 staff members and annual revenues of over US$75 million, with over 47,000 students from fourth grade through college attended Envision programs around the world.[5]

Envision administers a number of similar for-profit programs for high school and middle school students in the United States and internationally.

According to the 2008 IRS filing for Congressional Youth Leadership Council, one of its subsidiary organizations, "all full-time staff working on the account of CYLC are employees of Envision EMI LLC."[6] Envision EMI formerly operated some of its programs on behalf of non-profit entities that it had an exclusive marketing relationship with, including the Congressional Youth Leadership Council and the National Youth Leadership Forum,[7] which Envision purchased in November 2007. Envision acquired the assets of the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, including its name and the rights to run all of the programs.[3]

The company hosted more than 56,000 students in 273 conferences during 2009 in the United States, China, and Australia focusing on career education and qualities of leadership. The week-long programs cost from $1,440 to more than $3,060. Students are encouraged to raise money to help fund the trip.

The programs are marketed as conferences that help scholars develop their leadership and educational skills. The company strives through its marketing efforts to reach students it describes as high-achievers.[5] While the company is privately held and a for-profit enterprise, all of its wholly owned, subsidiary programs' web sites utilize the .org domain suffix, which was originally intended for generally non-commercial non-profit organizations.[8]

Current Ownership

In October 2011, substantially all the assets of Envision EMI, LLC were acquired by Leadership Platform Acquisition Corporation (“LPAC”), an affiliate of Gryphon Investors, which describes itself as "a highly respected San Francisco based private equity firm with a strong commitment to the field of education."[3]

Programs worldwide

In 2009, Envision EMI hosted more than 56,000 students in 273 conferences, more students than attended the programs of the company’s three closest competitors combined, and it plans to offer 310 conferences in 2010.[3][9] Most of the programs are attended by 150 to 400 students.[10]

In 2010, the company will conduct conferences in 35 cities and two foreign countries, China and Australia.

Congressional Youth Leadership Council

The Congressional Youth Leadership Council, or CYLC, was founded in 1985 to provide leadership training to young students. Formerly a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, its assets were acquired by Envision in 2007. It is a subsidiary organization of the for-profit Envision EMI, LLC, of Vienna, Virginia, which produces hundreds of similar conferences in multiple locations across the United States and in Europe and China. CYLC is owned and administered by Envision EMI, LLC.[11]

Envision EMI produces five programs under the Congressional Youth Leadership Council brand targeted for middle, junior high, and high school students. [12]

In August of 2011, Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) led an effort to urge Members of Congress to remove their names from CYLC's "Honorary Board of Congressional Advisors." Ackerman argued that the company was improperly using the names of Members of Congress to promote their product. Ackerman, like most Members of Congress on the Honorary Board, had joined when CYLC was a nonprofit organization. When Ackerman discovered that CYLC's owners had sold the nonprofit organization to their for-profit entity, he led the effort which resulted in more than 50 Members of Congress insisting their names be removed from all CYLC materials and website.[13]

Global Young Leaders Conference

The Global Young Leaders Conference, or GYLC, is a program for outstanding high school students from around the world. They take part in programs intended to improve leadership skills, to learn about international diplomatics and to understand global-scale roles. The program was first offered in 1999 as the Congressional Youth Leadership Council’s first international program.[3] In the two sessions held that year, there were 395 students who joined the first session on June 28 – July 8, 1999. The program takes place for 13 days throughout the summer in one of the following locations:

During the program students are given the opportunity to learn and exchange ideas with important business leaders, politicians, lobbyists, journalists, diplomats and academics. Previous GYLC keynote speakers include:

In November 2010, Sanvar Oberoi a GYLC alumni and third-year business student from Mumbai's HR College was nominated among 300 students to attend an interactive session with U.S. President Barack Obama. The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, reported that “Sanvar's representation to the Global Young Leaders Conference (GYLC) in 2007 made him a natural choice for the prized interaction with the U.S. President…”[18]

Junior National Young Leaders Conference

The Junior National Young Leaders Conference (JrNYLC) is for middle and junior high school level. Attendees examine leaders in American history and social advocacy to hone leadership skills.[8] The program is held in the summer, spring, and fall in Washington, D.C., with an optional alumni conference in Boston the following year. Students from all over the United States are invited to learn about leadership by studying American History. Students stay in hotels or conference centers for six days and visit museums throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and many historical sites including the Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial. Students are divided into groups based on six leadership traits that they study during the conference: goal-setting, teamwork, respect, communication, problem-solving, and character.

Junior National Young Leaders Conference Alumni Boston

The Junior National Young Leaders Conference Alumni Boston, also known as JrNYLC Alumni Boston, is a program where alumni of JrNYLC continue their journey of leadership and explore American history in the city of Boston, Massachusetts.[8]

National Young Leaders State Conference

The National Young Leaders State Conference, or NYLSC, is a leadership program for middle, junior high and high school level students. The program was first offered in 2004 to challenge students to strengthen the skills they need to succeed and gain a new perspective on how they view their role as leaders in their own communities. During the program attendees focus on eight core leadership power tools: communication, conflict resolution, decision making, goal setting, group dynamics, leadership techniques, project management, self-awareness and appreciating diversity.[8]

Many students fundraise and receive community support to attend programs.[19]

National Young Leaders Conference

The National Young Leaders Conference, or NYLC, is a program for United States high school students to discuss and debate current events and leading issues with national leaders.[8]

On March 4, 2010, Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert addressed NYLC students on the floor of the House of Representatives.[20] Students also meet with their Representative’s and Senators’ offices.[21]

Other keynote speakers who have previously spoken at NYLC include:

  • Neil Williamson, Founder and CEO of One Heartland [22]
  • Maya Enista, the CEO of and the cofounder of the 80 Million Strong campaign[23]

National Young Leadership Forum

The National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) is a tuition-based educational organization founded in 1992 that offers career and leadership-based programs for high school students throughout the United States. It offers a college preparation program where students live on campus and learn skills for early college success.[24]

NYLF previously offered programs in Nursing[25] and Technology.[26] NYLF offers four forums.

National Forum on Collegiate Success

The National Forum on Collegiate Success gives high school students hands-on experience in a college setting, including how to live and eat in the dorms, how to use office hours, maintaining a manageable schedule, and dealing with stress.[27]

National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and Crime Scene Investigation

The National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and Crime Scene Investigation, high school level, where students explore law and crime scene investigation, learning how lawyers prepare for trials and differences between civil and criminal law.[28]

National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine

The National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine, high school level.[8] Participant Andrew Sharp said, “I came with a great interest in medicine, and now I know that it’s what I want to do.”[29]

National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security

Beginning in 1992, the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security, was launched by NYLF to attract promising high school students who plan to pursue careers in the fields of diplomacy and national security.[8] [30] Originally, the program was called the National Youth Leadership Forum on Defense, Intelligence and Diplomacy (NYLF/DID), and it wasn’t until 2005 when it was renamed to the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security: Exploring American Diplomacy, Intelligence and Defense. During the Forum, students explore the field of national security, trying their hands at using crisis decision-making, with topics based on real world events; explore careers in national security, intelligence and the diplomatic corps; meet policy makers and senior military personnel; and tour government institutions and military installations.[31]

International Scholar Laureate Program

International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP) is a college level program for students to explore careers in business, diplomacy and international relations, engineering, medicine and nursing.[8]

National Young Scholars Program

The National Young Scholars Program (NYSP) is an elementary school level program for 3rd–5th grade students nominated by a teacher.[8] Students develop leadership skills through role playing.[32] The company formerly offered a National Young Leaders Program for elementary school students. Some components of the program were incorporated into Envision’s National Young Scholars Program, an Elementary school level program where teacher-nominated students are introduced to key leadership traits, including teamwork, communication, problem solving, character development and goal setting.[3]


In 1999, 2003, and in November 2007, Envision EMI was cited in Great Places to Work: Where to Launch a Career by The Washingtonian Magazine.[33]

College Credits

The faculty at George Mason University has approved several Envision programs for elective college credit in "Special Topics in Leadership.". These programs are the NYLF Forum on National Security, the National Young Leaders Conference, the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine, the National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and CSI, and the Global Young Leaders Conference. Participating students have the opportunity to earn one or two college credits, depending upon the length of the program, and credits are generally transferable to other 4-year colleges or universities. Students are evaluated for “active participation in simulations, contributions to discussions and demonstration of leadership and critical thinking skills in group and individual settings.” George Mason University notes that “it is unlikely that this type of credit will have a significant bearing on the college admissions process. When given the opportunity, we encourage students to think about how they can present these experiences in the application process as an example of their leadership potential.”[34] Academic programs offering college credit help save on undergraduate tuition, in addition to allowing students to explore specialized career paths and interests while offering “invaluable opportunities to take advanced courses and make use of resources not available in most high schools”.[35]

List of alumni

The following is a list of notable alumni who have attended a program hosted by Envision EMI.

  • Brandon Greene – Founder and President of A Better Community (ABC)
  • Chris Golden – Executive Director and Co-Founder of


Recruitment practices

The company markets its programs to what it describes as "high achievers"[37] and "an elite group of outstanding young people"[12] which it identifies via recommendations and mass mailings.[10] In 2009, more than 287,000 teachers nominated students to participate in an Envision EMI program.[3]

Teacher referrals and rented mailing lists

Students are nominated to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum by "teachers and alumni of previous conferences, and it culls names from mailing lists, for which the Congressional Youth Leadership Council paid $263,000 in 2006."[9][38][39] Tuition ranges from $1,440 to more than $3,060 depending upon the program. The fee covers accommodations, breakfast and dinner, program materials, and bus transportation. Students are responsible for other expenses including airfare, ground transportation to and from the conference, lunch, and other incidental expenses. A limited scholarship program is available to students with financial need.[40]

GPA not a criterion

In 2008, some program materials stated that a minimum 3.5 G.P.A. was required. Educators who nominate students are now told to use their own discretion. Teachers who nominate students to attend the company’s programs say they consider a student’s grades, behavior and participation in class, interactions with other students, and ability to learn. One said, “So it’s not just how many clubs can you get involved with, who do you know and what do you know? It’s: are you the type of person who will be able to step up and be a leader?”[41][42]

The nomination form does not ask for G.P.A. levels or educational achievement, simply asking only for the student’s name, address, school year and sex.[10]

Not selective

Many high school students believe that attending one of Envision's conferences is an honor and that their participation will positively affect their chances for college admission., written by professional college admission counselors, reports that "Too many students are invited to take part to make this a truly selective organization, and so many college candidates do take part—especially those from the more well-heeled families—that college-admission officials usually just yawn when they spot NYLC on an application."[43] reports that "such seminars are relatively meaningless as resume builders, at least in the eyes of college admissions officers." It reports that college admissions officers believe that "real honors...generally do not come with a price tag."[9]

Envision sends invitations "on weighty card stock adorned by a giant gold seal," using a "fancy script." It contained words like “elite,” “distinguished,” and “select.”[9] The letter received by the student "appears to be awarding the student recognition."[44] Linda Litterer, a teacher at Fort Madison High School, sent her daughter to the conference. She told the New York Times, “For these kids, it is a big deal.” The packaging for the conference invitation "kind of reinforces that.”[44]

Among college students, Susan Garrity Ardizzoni, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Tufts University, reported that some students who receive invitations are not what she would consider "leadership material."[44] Patrick O’Connor, the director of college counseling at the Roeper School for gifted students in Birmingham, Michigan, reported that he is "happy to nominate whoever wants to go.”[10]

An article in the Fall 1993 edition of Common Cause magazine questioned the selection process and motivation behind CYLC and other similar programs. Common Cause identified methods which then-Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole called "questionable recruiting practices." The company promised to change its methods. Members of the United States Congress and foreign embassies are listed on an 'honorary board of advisers.'[45] These endorsements were questioned by the Common Cause article.[7]

Endorsement withdrawn

In 2007 Dr. Richard M. Lerner, director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University, endorsed the Envision program in a letter to middle-school parents. In early 2009, he said he regretted endorsing the program and using Tufts University letterhead, which violated the university's policy barring endorsements of outside products or causes.[9][10]

2009 Inaugural conference criticism and legal action

In January 2009, Envision EMI was criticized for its handling of their Presidential Youth Inaugural Conferences that offered 15,000 youths the opportunity to attend exclusive events in Washington, DC. Participants received a letter congratulating them on being "accepted to be among the thousands of students" to "witness first-hand the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.[46]

Some students who had attended prior Envision events were surprised by the number of participants. One alumni of prior Envision conferences said she did not expect to be among 5,000 university students and 10,000 middle school and high school students at the conference. Prior conferences she had attended had around 200 to 400 students. Envision did not tell participants the actual number of attendees until they arrived.[47] A former employee of Envision, Angie Peltzer, returned as a faculty adviser during the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conferences and said she believed the company was unprepared to handle the number of students. "It's hard to do 15,000 people when you've only done 500 before," Peltzer said.[48] Another student attendee said the invitation gave her the impression "that there would be less people and it would be more intimate." She was surprised by the numbers who attended.[47]

The program web site stated that the conference included "exclusive and private inaugural events and well as public ceremonial events, such as the official swearing-in ceremony and the inaugural parade."[49]

Some students found upon arrival and to their surprise that they would have to compete with two million other visitors for viewing space to see the inauguration ceremonies. An unknown number were "stuck on buses during Barack Obama's swearing-in, unsupervised on the Mall or waiting for hours in hotels without participating at all"[48] due to the logistical difficulties at that time in the national capital.[50] Although an August letter from Envision to participants told them they would be "on the Mall," participants thought they would be receiving tickets to attend the inauguration itself, but when they arrived, they "were told to go to the National Press Office or Hard Rock Café to watch it on television."[47]

Parents began to file complaints with the company. As a result, the company pledged an independent review headed by Benjamin R. Civiletti, the Carter administration attorney general, and set aside US$1 million for restitution. The company acknowledged there were issues: “While the vast majority of scholars who attended our presidential inaugural programs had a positive experience, we acknowledge that some of them have stated that they did not and this is unacceptable to us... We are urgently working to address each and every concern and to respond to the families’ inquiries as quickly as possible."[48] Envision created a temporary web site in early 2009 that was active for about two months to help customers find information. No review by Civiletti was ever made public and Envision never made any follow-up statements about the $1 million restitution fund.

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg and Representative Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson, who were listed among more than 100 members of Congress as honorary advisers, asked to be taken off the list because of concerns about the inauguration program.[51] Lautenberg's spokesman commented, "The group at some point converted itself to a for-profit organization, and the senator is seriously concerned about complaints from New Jersey families regarding this group’s inauguration program."

Lawsuit filed

On May 13, 2009, the law firms Hausfeld LLP and DiMuroGinsberg PC filed a class action lawsuit, Radosti v. Envision EMI, LLC,[52] in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs, Bina Radosti, Joshua Rottman, Sally Rife, Heather Kern, Zachary Johnson Burton, and Latiana Carter on "behalf of over 15,000 middle school, high school, and college students", filed suit against Envision and CYLC citing breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and violations of state consumer protection laws.[53] CYLC, as a subsidiary company without any employees, was subsequently dropped from the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, delegates were told they would attend a "Black Tie Gala", when the actual dress code was "professional business attire (suits)". The suit alleges, that "Instead of the promised official inaugural ball, the students were taken to a "glorified prom"."[9][10] Richard Rossi, a co-founder of Envision, told The New York Times in April 2009 that the logistical challenges during the inauguration were overwhelming. "We were operating in almost a war zone, literally a presidential state of emergency", Mr. Rossi said. “There were a lot of things going on that were inconveniencing even V.I.P.’s.”[9]

Preliminary settlement made

On December 17, 2009, a class-action settlement agreement was preliminarily approved by the U.S. District Court.[54] The initial settlement provided US$2,500 to each of six class representatives. Envision agreed to pay for all settlement costs and to award attorneys' fees and costs to plaintiff counsel totaling US$1,455,000.[55] The tuition vouchers Envision must issue total in value $8,000,000, about one-half of what Envision was reported to have earned from the conference.[56]

Amended settlement announced

On June 10, 2010, the law firm announced in a press release that a federal judge had approved a settlement plan after extensive mediation. It provides up to US$17 million in tuition vouchers to members of the class action suit. The vouchers provide anyone who attended either the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference, the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference, or the University Presidential Inaugural Conference, with two, fully transferable vouchers worth US$625 (totaling US$1,250). The voucher can be redeemed until 2018 in payment as tuition for any future Envision program. Class members may only transfer the vouchers to individuals who meet Envision's academic qualifications, including a demonstrated grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

The judge who approved the settlement rejected the arguments of 22 state Attorney Generals who objected to the settlement,citing that, among other things, that "Envision’s financial condition significantly undermine Plaintiffs’ likelihood of obtaining meaningful class-wide relief at trial." It also noted that the cy pres fund established by the settlement agreement—if properly administered—will ensure that Envision substantially disgorges the profits from its alleged misconduct.[56][57]

The vouchers are worth approximately 50% of the tuition cost for the Presidential Inaugural conference. Class members are restricted to using one voucher for an Envision program costing less than US$3,500, or two of the vouchers towards an Envision program costing more than US$3,500. To provide a marketplace for the transferable vouchers, Envision agreed to maintain a web page describing how the vouchers can be transferred and redeemed.[58] If Envision fails to distribute vouchers totaling at least US$8,000,000, it agreed to establish a Class Settlement Scholarship Fund that may be used to provide partial or total scholarships to "academically qualified applicants." The Fund may also distribute an additional 5% of scholarships to other youth organizations to give to their members so they may attend Envision programs.[56]

Settlement criticism

In an amicus curiae brief filed with the United States Supreme Court, Theodore H. Frank of the public-interest law firm Center for Class Action Fairness stated that there is a likelihood that "class members will not be able to use their coupons to attend the conference of their choice, given that only 10% of seats at any given conference will be allowed to redeem coupons." He noted that the court approved the settlement over the objection of 22 state attorneys general.[56] He also wrote that class members are forced to help Envision EMI stay in business and are compelled to deal with the same firm that failed to deliver the initial conference for which they paid more than $2,300 to attend.[59]

Better Business Bureau rating

Of the more than 150,000 students that participated in Envision EMI programs between 2006 and 2009,[9] 108 have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau of Metro Washington D.C. and Eastern Pennsylvania. Fifty of those complaints were filed following the conclusion of the 2009 Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. In February 2009, the Better Business Bureau of Metro Washington D.C. and Eastern Pennsylvania revoked the company's accreditation because of "its failure to maintain the principles and standards required for accreditation" and the "number of complaints filed against business." The Better Business Bureau (BBB) cited "problems encountered by attendees at its 2009 Presidential Inaugural Conference." The company has since resolved 92% of those complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau. Of the seven remaining unresolved complaints, the Bureau shows that the "company made every reasonable effort to resolve" five of them. In mid-2010, the Bureau gave the company an “A+” rating and restored the company's former accreditation.[2]


External links

  • Envision EMI
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