The Ranch Hand Leadership Academy provides a leadership experience for Colorado youth with an opportunity to develop life skills and self-confidence. In a world that promotes idleness and disconnection, our youth staff works hard, understands responsibility and learns to connect with themselves and with each other.

Our summer program begins with the youth completing a personal preference assessment and meeting for a morning of learning about themselves and each other. As the youth staff earns money by grooming miles of horse trails and working on ranch projects during the summer, we focus on the academy’s vision, core values, and expectations and begin to build a cohesive team that values people, sets goals, adjusts to circumstances, works through conflict, faces fear, solves problems, improves processes and celebrates successes.

  • DONATIONS or VOLUNTEER SERVICE: Click the Support Our Youth button for more information on donating money, time or service.

  • APPLICATIONS: Scroll down and click the 2019 Youth Staff Application button below to apply for our 2019 program. Applicants must be between 14-19 years of age (by June 1), agree to work a minimum of 40 hours during the summer and attend all five weekend youth events. The deadline for applications is May 1, 2019. We will select eight youth this year after an in-person interview process.

John Bell Youth Leadership Award

Leadership is more than a mindset. Leaders apply the lessons of those that have come before them as often as they blaze the trail forward.

As part of our leadership program, members of our summer youth staff look for the person on the team that represents the highest leadership qualities. At the end of the summer, the team decides together which member should earn this honor.

This award recipient takes home the John Bell Youth Leadership Award along with having his or her name engraved on a plaque displayed in the onsite Bell View Country Store. The RHLA Director and the BMREC owner also provide the recipient with a letter of recommendation.


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Cowboy Values form the bedrock foundation of our Ranch Hand Leadership Academy.  One value is introduced every week during our Monday morning Round-Up Meeting and discussed in our Daily Team Debriefs. Throughout the summer, we teach, practice, and reward youth leaders embracing these values. Learn more about Cowboy Values at


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Throughout the summer, the youth staff are coached individually and collectively to apply the lessons they learn on the ranch to improving their own lives. While they are working hard and having fun, situational experiences turn into practical education that will help them to better navigate their future.

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We need your help to build tomorrow's trailblazers! 

The original Ranch Hand Leadership Academy began in the Summer of 2017.  In order to build and expand this program, impacting our youth for years to come, individual and company donations are needed and welcomed! All proceeds will be used for the development and implementation of the Ranch Hand Leadership Academy and a receipt will be provided for tax purposes.  This program falls under Youth Leadership Opportunities, Inc. (YOLO), a Colorado registered 513c non-profit organization. Please lend your support by contributing to the general fund covering supplies, activities and other expenses required to meet our program objectives.  We appreciate any financial support you can give and encourage donations at the following benefit levels.  Scroll up and click DONATE!


Interested in becoming a business sponsor?

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Interested in sponsoring one of our youth?

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When you sponsor one of our youth, your money will be spent on one of the particular youth we select for our program and that young man or young woman will know of your contribution. You will receive a thank you message including photos and a description of what happened during the amount of time you chose to sponsor and the impact it had on the youth.



Our Director

Jerry Van Leuven, current president of Youth Leadership Opportunities, Inc. (YOLO), consulted with Bell Mountain Ranch Equestrian Center in 2017 to create and head up this youth leadership program.

Jerry spent over twenty-five years in corporate sales, leadership and training and has created and delivered professional people development programs and workshops for large, global organizations.

Most importantly, Jerry and his wife Cathi, have raised five kids and Jerry has served as scoutmaster several times in the Boy Scouts of America as well as a church youth leader. He loves working with youth and enjoys being a kid himself.

Our Location Sponsor

Bell Mountain Ranch Equestrian Center, just south of the town of Castle Rock, is our awesome location sponsor. Click the video to the right to learn about this wonderful sponsor and their vision: “We provide a place and a community that has the power to enrich, heal, transform and re-imagine the lives of people...our customers, our community family and our employees.” Learn more about boarding, riding lessons, horse training, and schedule a free ranch tour at BMREC by clicking:

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Our Financial Sponsors

We thank the wonderful organizations and individuals who contributed donations to the 2019 Ranch Hand Leadership Academy, including our good friends, Nick and Diane Lujan. Without this support, we would not have been able to experience the level of success we enjoyed!

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