Skip Navigation


Young people often believe that they can’t make a difference. That they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or capacity to influence issues like poverty, healthcare, education, or the environment. That they’re powerless to create change.

Yet there are countless stories that prove this is not the case. Thousands of young people powered the peaceful protests that ended legal segregation in the U.S., and have been instrumental in movements for democracy and human rights around the world. Teenagers have started international campaigns against child labor and fought for the education of girls in the developing world. And those are just a few examples.

CLI students explore the complex challenges that affect our communities, and develop the knowledge, experience and leadership skills they need to make a positive impact on the world.

Civic Leadership Institute participants:

  • Serve communities in need
  • Analyze pressing social problems and promising solutions
  • Develop leadership, communication, and critical-thinking skills
  • Meet with top government, business, and nonprofit leaders
  • Explore college life in an exciting city
  • Build lasting friendships with bright, motivated peers
  • Earn academic credit and service hours
  • Discover ways to make a difference in the world!

Please refer to the information below for more details about the Civic Leadership Institute curriculum:

Back to top

Challenging Academics

Through an advanced course in Service, Leadership & Community Transformation, students are challenged to learn in new ways and apply their skills in real-world settings. Class groups of approximately 15 students, along with an experienced instructor, engage in an innovative curriculum that integrates theory and practice.

Classroom learning is hands-on and engaging. In addition to readings and written assignments, our instructors utilize interactive exercises, simulations, independent and small group projects, and facilitated dialogue and debate. Students develop their critical thinking skills by examining and defending their own ideas and learning to understand and appreciate the perspectives of others.

Meaningful Service

Through meaningful, hands-on service experiences, the city becomes a classroom, and the issues communities are facing become the textbook. Students are able to connect with people, hear their stories, and gain an understanding of the issues that readings and assignments alone can’t provide.

Several times a week, in their class groups, students engage in service projects that span neighborhoods, organizations, and approaches to addressing social problems. During a typical project, students might serve a meal to someone who is experiencing homelessness, run educational and recreational activities at a youth center, or conduct outreach for a neighborhood improvement organization.

All service experiences are coordinated and facilitated by program staff, who create a supportive environment where students feel safe to participate in activities they may have never attempted before. (For more information on safety precautions, see Information for Parents.)

Year after year, students report that these service experiences are the most eye-opening element of the program.

Speakers & Seminars

A series of all-campus guest speakers allows students to hear from top government, business and nonprofit leaders about their experiences, perspectives, and guidance for young people who want to create change.

Students also have the opportunity to explore special current social and political issues and ways to engage in their local and global communities through a weekly set of mini-workshops drawn from the expertise of our talented staff teams.

Leadership Development

Student leadership is essential to the program experience, as students move beyond participating in the program to taking ownership of their learning and their residential experience. In the process, students hone their communication and interpersonal skills and gain practice in teamwork and problem solving.

Students leave the program with an action plan to address a need in their home community, applying the tools they learned throughout the course to an area of personal interest.

Students report that their CLI experience provides rich material for college admissions essays, job and internship interviews, and future academic assignments. Most importantly, students build their capacity as active, engaged citizens and leave the program inspired and empowered to create positive change.

A Note About Credit

Students may be eligible for high school credit and between 25 and 100 hours of service-learning credit (depending on school guidelines) for participation in the CTY Civic Leadership Institute.

Students interesting in pursuing credit are encouraged to talk to school official prior to the program. A sample syllabus is available for download below. Let school officials know you will be able to document course completion with a detailed evaluation from their instructor, certification of service hours, a certificate of completion, and a letter grade if needed. For more information on advocating for credit, please download the Parent Guide.

Sample Syllabus

View a sample syllabus.

Back to top