As part of your college application, extracurricular activities—including those over the summer— help demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and commitment to an area of study (typically, the one you might pursue in college).
But “programs” are not the only way to explore academic interests. You can join clubs at your school or locally, take free online classes via edX and Coursera, shadow, or intern (aka volunteer for most students)—there are tons of options ranging from super formal (and pricey) to those as simple as reading in your free time.
The following programs are some of our favorites for students interested in exploring social justice and activism.
Pen American Free Speech Advocacy Institute (Spring too!!!). PEN America’s Free Speech Advocacy Institute is a 15-week online education and training program that will provide students with a foundational understanding of free expression as a civil right and an ongoing contemporary topic of social and political conversation. Students will be introduced to a broad range of issues related to free expression at both the domestic and international levels, covering the First Amendment and free expression limitations established by the Supreme Court, as well as the history of free expression as a human right, and other modern issues related to the Internet, protest, political dissent, hate, and freedom of the press.
The ACLU National Advocacy Institute’s High School Program will convene a virtual gathering of high school students (ages 15-18) from across the United States to participate in a week-long learning experience for the next generation of social justice advocates.
The NYCLU has prioritized youth activism for more than 20 years. They work with youth organizers across New York State to ensure that young people know their rights, know how to access those rights and learn how to effectively organize around civil rights and civil liberties in their schools and communities. They are eager to organize alongside youth activists, educators and parents alike to effect change in New York. Check out these projects: Teen Activist Project & Student Ambassadors.
FFAC National High School Mentorship. Are you a high school student interested in working to create a more just and sustainable food system? Are you looking for a deeper understanding of social issues and your place as an advocate in the movement? Would you like to be part of a supportive community of like-minded changemakers? If so, consider applying to Factory Farming Awareness Coalition’s Student Advocates program.
Religious Action Center Teen Justice Fellowship. RAC teen fellowship programs are learning intensives in community organizing, designed to equip our youth leaders with the skills to create change in their home communities. Through fellowships, high schoolers connect with other social justice leaders from across the country and learn lifelong skills applicable to any issue they are passionate about. The fellowships value experiential learning, moving beyond theory and Zoom trainings into action. Each fellowship culminates in teens designing and implementing a project in their home communities. As a fellow, you’ll learn community organizing skills, explore your own identity and what your sources of privilege and oppression are, the roots of voter suppression in America, skills to register voters, and complete a civic engagement project in your home community. You get to learn, decide how you want to make an impact, and be the leader that makes it happen.
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