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HHS Student Selected at YLF Delegate
Posted On:
Thursday, June 08, 2017
Kari Balazs at YLF
Kari Balazs at YLF

09-June-2017 (HHS) - Dance sits atop Kari Balazs’ list of favorite classes.  In fact, it’s an art she’s practiced since the age of three.  Under the direction of teacher Alicia Wilbanks, Kari learns the latest dance moves and gets to express herself simultaneously.

“I love being in this class, it’s the best,” Kari said.  “I have the best dance teacher in the world.”

Kari, a rising senior at Hoover HS, was equally excited to learn that she was one of only a handful of Alabama high school students selected this year to participate in the Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum (YLF).  The forum, held June 5-8 at Troy University, is an annual event designed to assist students with disabilities in developing leadership skills and the use of resources that can assist them with future challenges

Kari has Down Syndrome - and spent months looking forward to YLF.  She returned from the camp-like experience the first week of June, with new perspectives on her life.

“What I learned was how to be a leader. We talked about how to become self-advocates and learned tips and tricks of how to live on our own,” Kari said.

Kari says her parents were very proud when the family received official notification that she had been selected as the delegate from Hoover High School, a school her mom describes as “supportive” and full of “creative teachers.”  

“Kari tackles all challenges enthusiastically,” her mother, Lisa Balazs, said. “Kari has a great GPA; she is on the [general education] pathway and everything takes her longer and it is always more work for her, yet it never slows her down. We are hoping she learns that it is okay to go away from home and have new experiences.  She wants to be independent and this is one way we can help her take steps towards going away to college and living on her own one day."

In fact, Kari is the third Hoover High School student in three years to have attended YLF (Hunter Fair in 2016 and Alex Jian in 2015).  Another of Kari’s teachers - Lisa Carey - knows Kari can rise to any challenge.

“I’m very proud of Kari.  [YLF] is a very competitive program for juniors and seniors,” Carey said.

YLF provided other opportunities for Kari, including a talent show, a dance, and laser tag games. Beyond the fun, Kari says she gained camaraderie beyond measure.

“The other students were fun and very nice. My main point of going was to see other people who were like me, so I can learn what it is like for people to have different disabilities and to overcome them.”

More on the Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum:
Delegates considered for YLF and their references must complete an intensive application process to be considered for the Youth Leadership Forum.  The process rates them in a number of areas including character, creativity, initiative, communication skills, leadership, responsibility, concern for others, and more.  See more at

Jason Gaston
HCS Public Relations

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