Are you ready for a transformative year of building power and circulating it in your community?

Get started on your application to join the Youth Collaboratory in 2024!
Here’s what you need to know…

  • We’ve extended the application deadline! Applications will close on September 24th at 11:59 p.m. PT.
  • The Youth Collaboratory is expanding! This year we’ll accept students for two cohorts beginning in November 2023 and May 2024.
  • This experience is offered at no-cost to students and families thanks to the generous support of our funders.

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 civic power, share power in their community, and create a stronger civic culture for everyone.

This program is right for you if you’re thinking…

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

Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re ready to apply for something like this — please reach out to Davis Endava at [email protected] if you have questions or need support preparing your application.

Apply to join Youth Collab →

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 are excited to lean all the way in. We won’t sugar coat it — it’s a big commitment, but it’s worth it!

View the schedule for the year

Activities will include:

  • Attending several required virtual learning sessions and gatherings over the course of the six-month cohort experience.
  • Reading You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen, written by our CEO Eric Liu.
  • Traveling to two in-person meetings with your cohort and national leaders.
  • Planning and implementing a Power Project in your home community (with tons of support along the way!).
  • Joining 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?

Winter Cohort:

  • Virtual Orientation (Mid-November 2023)
  • Trip 1: Seattle, WA (January 2024)
  • Trip 2: Simi Valley, CA (April 2024)

Summer Cohort:

  • Virtual Orientation (Mid-May 2024)
  • Trip 1: Location TBA (July 2024)
  • Trip 2: San Francisco, CA (October 2024)
Before your first trip

Welcome to the Youth Collaboratory! We are thrilled to have you on board. Our journey will begin with a virtual orientation session where we will dive into the core concepts of civic power and explore Eric Liu’s book, “You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen.”

Travel to meet your cohort

During your first trip you will have the opportunity to meet your cohort and engage with civic leaders from the National Civic Collaboratory. During this time, you will start working on your Power Project, mapping the flow of power in your community and outlining the necessary steps to achieve your goals. You will also have the chance to present your Power Project proposal and receive valuable feedback from your peers.

Between trips

It’s Power Project time! We will have online workshops to help you digest the knowledge from the book and kick off your Power Project. These sessions will provide guidance and support as you navigate through the project development process.

We will have workshops and check-ins to further support your progress. Our dedicated Citizen University staff members will be there every step of the way, ensuring you have the resources and guidance needed to bring your project to life. This is a time for you to apply your newfound understanding of civic power to address a pressing need in your community.

Second trip — Connect + celebrate!

During this trip, we will reflect on the projects we launched, sharing our learnings and discussing our aspirations for future work. It will be a time of celebration and connection as we wrap up this incredible journey.

Join our CU Catalyst Community

One of the most valuable aspects of the Youth Collaboratory is the network of alumni and fellow civic catalysts you will join. Even after your year in the program comes to an end, we encourage you to stay connected and engaged with the vibrant community of changemakers. The relationships and connections you build during this time will continue to inspire and support you on your path to making a positive impact.

A young woman having a discussion at a table.

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.

Step Two

Type out the answers to questions 1-3, below. You’ll submit your application through a 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 a facet of your identity that is particularly meaningful to you — and tell us why. Identity can include things like: age, gender expression, sexual orientation, where your family is from, races, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, religions, abilities and/or disabilities, life experiences, economic situation, and so much more. We want to know a bit about what makes you, you.
  2. Describe your community, as you see it. Why does your community matter to you — and to this country?
  3. 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 share as well.

The Youth Collaboratory is a learning environment that celebrates different ways of communicating and expressing ideas. For questions 4-5, rather than writing your responses, you may either upload a video of yourself speaking your answer or you may upload a creative response to the prompt — a poem, drawing, song, animation, etc. The creative response should be original, we want to get to know YOU.

4. What does “Civic Power” mean to you? How has it shaped your life, whether exercised by you or by others? To learn more about how we define Civic Power at CU, check out this video.

5. At Citizen University we are building a culture of powerful, responsible citizenship across the country — and in our case, America. In our work, we often reflect on both our creed (the promise imagined at America’s founding) and our deeds (the actions Americans have taken–currently, and throughout history– that have aligned with or been counter to that promise).What does being American mean to you? How do you understand your identity as an American?

Step Three

Submit your application using this form by September 24th at 11:59 p.m. PT. (The priority deadline is September 1st, so get your app in ASAP!) 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 →

Remember, we are here to support you as you prepare your application. Please reach out to Davis Endava at [email protected] with any questions or needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m a college sophomore or junior. Can I still apply?
Our Youth Collab program is open to students who are sophomore or juniors in high school during the 2023-2024 school year.

How do you select Youth Collab members?
Youth Collaboratory students have a variety of experiences and backgrounds. We are looking for students who are thoughtful, 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 dreams and hopes you have for your community. Use the application space to self-reflect and share with us!

Where will we be meeting?
The Youth Collaboratory meets in two different locations around the country each cohort. We work with our partners in many states to plan and host Youth Collab, which happens in tandem with our National Civic Collaboratory meetings each year. This year, we’ll be meeting in Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; New York City; Simi Valley, California; and another location to be announced! Youth Collaboratory students will stay in hotels in these cities, with support and oversight from Citizen University staff.

How much does it cost?
The Youth Collaboratory is supported by Citizen University’s funders and is offered at no-cost to participants. Flights, transportation on the ground, 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, change fees for last minute change requests, 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 using their cell phones.

A group of young people outisde the Lincoln Memorial.

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, 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 kindness, 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 Davis Endava ([email protected]) and tell us more about your specific situation.