Are you ready for a transformative year of learning how to build power and making real change happen in your community?

Get started on your application for Citizen University’s 2022 cohort of the Youth Collaboratory! Here’s what you need to know…


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A few young people sitting around their computers and talking.

Who should apply?

The Youth Collaboratory is a program for high school sophomores and juniors. Youth Collab members want to learn how to build power, deepen their commitment to their community, and build a stronger civic culture for everyone.

Do you resonate with these statements? Then you might be a great fit!

  • I want to support my community in new or deeper ways, but I don’t know where to start.
  • I have issues I care about, but I don’t feel very powerful or capable of making a change.
  • I’m ready to work hard to turn a passion of mine into a meaningful project.
  • I want to learn from professionals and other people my age who hold a range of opinions, experiences, and identities.

Our students represent a wide variety of communities, experiences, passions, backgrounds, and talents. Students who come from backgrounds that have historically had less access to power and civic opportunity are especially encouraged to apply.

What’s the commitment?

The Youth Collaboratory is an opportunity to work hard for the things you believe in, and we are looking for people who can lean all the way in. We won’t sugar coat it: it’s a big commitment.

Activities will include:

  • Several required virtual learning sessions and gatherings over the course of the year.
  • Reading You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen, written by our CEO Eric Liu.
  • Three intensive meetings with your cohort and national leaders (currently planned for in-person).
  • Planning & implementing a Power Project in your home community during Summer 2022 (with tons of support along the way!).
  • Join a robust community of YC alumni who can’t wait to meet you, cheer you on, and support your growth.

You’ll get out of this program what you are able to put in. We encourage you to reflect on your current obligations to school and other groups as you decide for yourself whether you have the time and energy necessary to experience everything this program has to offer. 

Screenshot of young people smiling and waving.

What’s the schedule?

*We have outlined a policy for evaluating travel safety and COVID protocols for in-person events. Read more below.

January

Welcome to the Youth Collab! We’ll begin our learning together virtually with an orientation session.

You’ll receive a copy of You’re More Powerful Than You Think, written by our founder and CEO Eric Liu. You’ll read this book in advance so that we can learn Eric’s way of explaining how civic power is generated, the ways it flows, and the strategies you can use to harness it in your real life. Having this framework in common helps us to collaborate and support one another.

February

We’ll meet for a few sessions online to help you digest the learning from the book and prepare for our first gathering in March.

March

Our first trip is planned for March 2-5.* You’ll travel to meet your cohort at the Citizen University headquarters in Seattle, WA. You’ll spend time with your friends from your cohort in person and connect with civic leaders in our National Civic Collaboratory. In Seattle, you’ll start planning your Power Project by mapping how power flows in your community and charting the steps you’ll need to accomplish your goal.

April

When you get home from our first trip you’ll begin planning your Power Project in earnest. We will continue to meet for workshops that will support your process. Citizen University staff members will check in with you along the way! You’ll use this time to figure out how you can transform your new knowledge about civic power in order to meet a need in your community. You’ll work on putting together your project proposal in time for our next meeting.

May-June

At the start of the summer you’ll travel to meet your cohort in New York City. In your Youth Collab meetings, you’ll present your Power Project proposal and receive feedback from your peers — and from members of the National Civic Collaboratory.

June-August

It’s time to launch your Power Projects! We’ll support you as you turn your ideas into a reality. There will be a few group calls to check in on your progress along the way.

September

Our final meeting is planned for September.* You’ll travel to meet your cohort somewhere awesome, hosted by one of our partners (location TBD). We’ll reflect on the projects you launched over the summer, sharing what you learned and describing your dreams for future work.

October and beyond

One of the best parts of the Youth Collaboratory is the network of incredible civic catalysts you join. After your year is over, we hope you’ll stay connected and plugged in to the vibrant network of alumni!

*A note on COVID & travel uncertainty: Due to the continued uncertainty around COVID-19, travel is not guaranteed. In the event that we decide that a session will not be held in person, we will meet virtually instead. We have outlined a policy on evaluating travel safety and our protocols for all those participating in our programs in-person. Read about our COVID Policies & Protocols.

We recognize that we are living through a time that can feel unstable, and we hope to create a program that offers a sense of grounding. We also acknowledge that young people have in many cases borne much of this uncertainty and may be feeling exhausted by online gathering and learning. We have taken the time to reimagine this program and create an experience designed to be meaningful and enriching whether we are meeting in person or online, and will keep students and parents updated every step of the way.

Twenty high schoolers stand in front of a big mural.

How do I apply?

Carefully read the following details and the questions below.

Step One

Review all of the details around the Youth Collaboratory. Make sure you can make the trips and meetings outlined.

Step Two

Type out answers to the questions below. You’ll submit your application through a Google Form, so it’s best to write out your answers in a document ahead of time so you can copy and paste into the form. (Suggested word count: 250 words.)

  1. Describe two or three facets of your identity and how they have helped shape who you are. This could include political or religious views, racial or ethnic background, family history or experience, or other experiences that have contributed to making you who you are.
  2. Citizen University operates with seven core values: Responsibility, Equity, Spirit, Purpose, Ingenuity, Collaboration, and Trust. Select one that feels personally meaningful for you and tell us why it’s a value you share as well.
  3. How has your life been shaped by civic power, whether exercised by you or by others?
  4. We know that the past few years have uncovered, heightened, or illuminated many of the challenges facing our communities. What have you witnessed or experienced in the past few years that has called you to apply for this opportunity? Community can be described in several ways – your school, neighborhood, age group, etc.
  5. What other activities are you also committed to in 2022? What strategies do you have to manage your time and balance your energy? Describe up to three activities. If you feel you currently need support managing your time and balancing your energy, please share that with us.
  6. What movie/book/podcast would you recommend to your potential fellow cohort members? Why?

Step Three

Submit your application using this form! Once your application has been submitted, you will not be able to make changes, so please proofread your materials thoroughly before submission.

Submit your application →

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you select Youth Collab members?
We are looking for students who represent a variety of experiences and backgrounds, and 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 the ways you hope to engage with your community. Use the application space to self-reflect and share your identity with us!

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 update you on the locations as soon as we confirm them!

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.

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.

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.