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 (ideally, 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. Ultimately, students need to choose what works best for them.
Below are some of our favorites for students interested in exploring social justice and activism.
PEN America’s spring 2023 Free Expression Advocacy Institute
Spring and usually offered in the summer. PEN America’s spring 2023 Free Expression Advocacy Institute is an intensive, online, eight-week educational and training program where high school and college students can learn the theories, laws, histories, and methodologies behind free expression advocacy. Our program includes presentations led by expert legal and policy practitioners from PEN America, interactive workshops designed to teach tangible skills, and TA-facilitated discussion sessions and activities to dive deeper into the issues with their peers. Participants cap their experiences by simulating advocacy campaign projects over the course of the Institute to present in the final closing session of the program. Students who successfully complete the program and attend all sessions will be granted a certificate of professional achievement in free expression advocacy from PEN America. This program is FREE and available to all high school and college students. Full attendance is required to receive a certificate.
The ACLU National Advocacy Institute’s High School Program
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. Students will engage directly with ACLU lawyers, lobbyists, community activists, and other experts working to defend the civil rights and civil liberties that are critical to a free and open society. Through classroom sessions, lectures, site visits, and policy discussions, students will explore the complex nature of issue advocacy, legal strategy, and real-world political decision making in Washington, D.C. as well as return home with advocacy tools to make change in their community.
NYCLU – Multiple Projects
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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