It’s easy to feel powerless — especially as a young person. In the Youth Collaboratory, high school students dive deep into how power works and who has it.

Spoiler alert: we believe everyone has more power than they think. This program brings together passionate students from all across the country for a year of insights, connections, and practice — learning how to build civic power for good. You’ll travel to cities across the nation, meet leading civic innovators from all corners of the country, and use what you learn to develop a personal Power Project.

Applications for Youth Collab are closed at this time, but please sign up for our email interest list to be the first to know when applications open next!

About the Youth Collab experience

Each Youth Collaboratory cohort runs from February to October. Over the course of that year, your group will connect both in-person and virtually, and you’ll put your skills to work in your hometown.

Travel and Gather.

Three times a year, you’ll visit cities across the country where you’ll spend time with your cohort and meet national civic leaders. We’ll cover all transportation, food, and lodging costs for the trip.

Learn to Read and Write Power.

The basis of your learning will come from Eric Liu’s book, You’re More Powerful Than You Think. You’ll get to learn alongside Eric and others to explore how civic power is generated, the ways it flows, and the strategies you can use to harness it to make change happen in your community!

Turn Passion into Reality.

To bring it all together, you’ll create a Power Project focused on changing civic culture at home. Whether that’s gathering people together, serving your community, or spreading ideas about citizenship, you’ll use your newfound knowledge to catalyze change.

Find Your People.

Our favorite reason to join the Youth Collab? Joining a community of young people who care and want to step up their game. You’ll hype each other up, learn from each other’s experiences, commit to supporting each other's projects, and meet people who will be in your life forever.

The Youth Collab is about challenging yourself. When it’s broken down for you by Citizen University, a better future doesn’t seem so distant; it starts right here, right now, and it starts with us.

Claire O. Youth Collab alum

Practicing power

Your Power Project will be a central part of the Youth Collab experience — and you’ll get to focus on an issue you’re passionate about. We’ll support you in dreaming up and implementing a project unique to you, using the learnings, resources, and connections you’ve gained over the year. Here are a few projects past students have completed.

Making your voice more powerful.

Naimo gathered her friends together around the mic to create a podcast about microaggressions and the impact they have on their everyday lives. 

Creating in-roads in local government.

Feeling like youth voices were being left out, Marco collaborated with the Mayor and City Council in his town to create a Youth Council. 

Reaching and empowering voters.

Wanting to strengthen democracy by increasing voter engagement, Micah launched a website to help people know more about local elections in his area. 

Rallying with others.

Since she was a kid, Harmonie has cared deeply about taking action around climate change. Now she’s hosting climate summits reaching teens across the country.

What CU has shown me is that you can make steps to do what you’d like to see in your community. What CU teaches us is that if you learn how to manifest power in a way you can use it, you can make it whatever your dreams are.

Bunmi O. Youth Collab alum

FAQ

How do you select Youth Collab members?

We are looking for students with all different types of experiences who are thorough, engaged, and self-aware — and we evaluate applicants based on these criteria. As you fill out your application, take your time to respond to every question with detail. Show us how you are engaged with the needs of your community, whether it be personally or as a member of other groups and clubs. Use the application space to self-reflect and share your identity with us!

How do I apply?

Applications open each year in the Fall. Join the interest list to get notified when applications open!

What is the schedule for the year?

  • Fall — Apply to the program! Each year, we accept about 24 new students into our cohort. In the application, you’ll reflect on how you want to build power in your community.
  • Winter & Spring – Travel with your cohort in February, May, and September to cities around the US — it’s different places every year! You’ll make friends and connections with your cohort and civic leaders in our National Civic Collaboratory.
  • Summer — Launch your power projects! We’ll support you as you turn your ideas into a reality. At our last meeting in September you’ll report on your Power Project and celebrate your success.

Where will we be meeting?

The Youth Collaboratory meets in three different locations around the country each year. We work with our partners in many states to plan and host Youth Collab. In the past, we’ve been to Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Charlottesville, Simi Valley, Malibu, Washington, D.C., and more. We will release the specific locations and meeting dates for the upcoming program as part of the application packet each fall.

I’ve never traveled alone before, how will I know what to do?

Flying alone for the first time can be exciting! Citizen University provides a comprehensive travel guide that will help you learn to manage your own needs while traveling. Citizen University staff members will meet you at the airport of your destination city and be with you throughout the duration of your trip. Communication is important, and students will need to be able to communicate with CU staff members via cell phone.

How much does it cost?

The Youth Collaboratory is supported by Citizen University’s funders and is free for participants. Flights, transportation from airports in our destination cities, accommodation at the hotel, and meals throughout the program are covered. We will arrange flights based on the information you provide, and will send flight confirmations to you. Students are responsible for baggage fees for checked luggage and transportation to and from the airport in their home city. You may want to bring a small amount of money on trips to purchase snacks, souvenirs, or other items.

What are the rules?

Citizen University strives to create an environment of mutual respect, open-hearted participation, and professional conduct. Students participating in the Youth Collaboratory are expected to speak, act, behave, and dress accordingly. Accepted participants will review a Code of Conduct detailing our rules and expectations. Students will be expected to follow the instructions of staff members at all times, treat one another with respect, and adhere to nightly curfew.

How do I convince my parents and/or school to let me go?

Citizen University can work with you to communicate with your parents or school administrators. In our experience, absences for school can be excused, tests can be rescheduled, and class time can be made up. If you have concerns about your ability to participate based on your other commitments, please reach out to Zoey Belyea (zoey@citizenuniversity.us) and tell us more about your specific situation.