Stay Connected


Youth to Leaders
Lead. Love. Save. Serve.

Tavis Smiley Foundation

National Youth Advisory Council



Tavis Smiley Foundation
Since its inception . . .

More than 6,000 youth ages 13 to 18 have participated in the Foundation's leadership training workshops and conferences.



The mission of the Tavis Smiley Foundation is to enlighten, encourage and empower youth by providing leadership training that will promote and enhance the quality of life for themselves, their communities and our world.

Live Video app for Facebook by Ustream

Our work is based on the notion that young people have the capacity to become leaders in their chosen field of endeavor if given the exposure to concepts of leadership and the opportunity to demonstrate their skills through positive social action.

Young people have been at the core of every social movement in history and through our Leadership Institute we hope to identify the next generation of social change leaders.


Leaders Speak Out

Tavis Smiley Speaks Out

Meet Harvard Law Phenom Cortlan Wickliff

Tavis Smiley is host of the nightly talk show Tavis Smiley on PBS, and the host of The Tavis Smiley Show and co-host of Smiley & West from Public Radio International (PRI). He founded the Tavis Smiley Foundation in 1999.

When Cortlan Wickliff was just 11 years old he participated in the Tavis Smiley Foundation’s Youth to Leaders program in Houston. Fast forward to 2013 and Cortlan made history as one of the youngest African Americans to graduate with a law degree from Harvard University at age 22. He received a bachelor’s degree from Rice University when he was 19.

If you missed it here’s Tavis’s interview with Cortlan a few weeks before he received his degree.

Watch Education advocate Cortlan Wickliff on PBS. See more from Tavis Smiley.


Here’s a recent article on Cortlan from the Boston Globe.

Description: The Boston Globe


Harvard Law Student Graduates at 22

CAMBRIDGE — On a recent Wednesday afternoon, 22-year-old Cortlan Wickliff walks into a pizzeria looking every bit the college student, with headphones, braces, and slightly overgrown hair. Finals are over, and there’s not much to do but have dinner with friends and watch movies, lots of movies, until graduation.

Oh, and start studying for the bar exam.

When Wickliff dons his cap and gown, regalia his mother had to remind him to order, the Texas native will be one of the youngest African-Americans ever to graduate from Harvard Law School.

To read the article in its entirety, click here:


Young Speakers Speak Out

Alumni Spotlight

Alumni writes children’s book

Youth to Leaders alumni Corey Emanuel didn't know exactly how he would utilize his master's degree in Communication and Education from Columbia University Teachers College when he graduated in 2012 in the midst of a tough economy, but deciding to dust off a children's book he wrote in fall of 2008 seemed to be the best place to start.

Corey wanted to use his degree to infuse entertainment with "teachable moments", a craft he says Bill Cosby perfected during the 80's and 90's with the hit series, The Cosby Show. But instead, he took another lesson from Cosby and decided to write a book for kids. Having interned in the editorial department of CNN's In America with Soledad O'Brien as a graduate student, Corey says he gained the confidence to revisit and edit a book he had written in 2008 on the cuff of President Barack Obama's election as the 44th United States President.

Read More »

Young Speakers Speak Out

Smiley Spotlight

Ginene Lewis of Philadelphia was recently named as one of the Ten to Watch on the On Being A Black Lawyer 2013 Power List of the most influential black attorneys in the country.

The Power List recognizes the extraordinary accomplishments of black lawyers in the legal profession and beyond. Ginene’s category recognizes 10 talented individuals who while still early in their legal careers, have achieved prominence and distinction, professionally and philanthropically and represent the best talent in the legal profession
Ginene is a law clerk to the Honorable Patrice Tucker of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Philadelphia. She earned her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2012 and is a 2009 Phi Beta Kappa  graduate of Spelman College, where she majored in political science.

She is a past member of the Tavis Smiley Foundation National Youth Advisory Council and a Smiley Scholar recipient.


Empowering today's youth for tomorrow

Our Supporters and Partners

Subscribe to our Newsletter

* Email
* = Required Field