Noteworthy Social Justice Programs for High School Students

February 3, 2024

For high school students who are passionate about the pursuit of social equity and justice, participation in programs that provide a foundational understanding of the principles and practices associated with this pursuit is often a critical step on their academic journeys. In this blog post, we explore and highlight some of the best pre-college programs dedicated to fostering a deep appreciation for social justice issues, equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm needed to become informed advocates for a more just, inclusive world.

If you are interested in becoming a catalyst for positive change in your community and beyond, AtomicMind can help. Contact us today for assistance in identifying and applying to the social justice program that is the best fit for you.

ACLU National Advocacy Institute’s High School Program

The American Civil Liberties Union’s National Advocacy Institute is a week-long, in-person program in Washington, DC, for high school students aged fifteen through eighteen, fostering social justice advocacy skills. In addition, the ACLU Southern Collective Advocacy Institute—convening in Atlanta, Georgia, and traveling to Montgomery, Alabama—gives high school students from the southern United States an opportunity to learn about local social justice issues.

Emerson College - Politics, Activism, and Leadership Institute

Emerson's Politics, Activism, and Leadership Institute (PAL) is a three-week on-campus program for high school students exploring the role of communication in politics, activism, and leadership. Focused on various issues, including community activism, social justice, civic engagement, and crisis management, participants delve into topics such as law in advocacy, bias, storytelling, research methods, and political journalism. The program incorporates discussions on social media platforms, while field trips to historical sites and landmarks, both virtual and in person, complement the learning experience. PAL encourages participants to become active agents in their communities, preparing them to be ambassadors and advocates for various causes. The program, which is is available as both a noncredit and college credit option, offers a "Speech of Advocacy" component, with participants delivering speeches on the final day.

Georgetown University – Hoya Summer Academies: Pathways to Social Justice Academy

The Pathways to Social Justice Academy, part of Georgetown’s Hoya Summer Academies, explores public policy through a social justice lens. Through lectures, discussions, and guest speakers, students engage in interdisciplinary coursework covering topics like public policy, social justice, advocacy, equity, power, democracy, awareness campaigns, and public speaking. Students interact with professionals from think tanks and organizations focused on civil, economic, labor, and human rights, gaining insights into the forces shaping public policy. The program is available in a five-week on-campus format, eight-week online courses, or a combination of both. Upon completion, participants receive an official transcript from Georgetown University.

Peace Ambassador Leadership Summit (PALS) at Georgetown: Civic Action and Social Justice

PALS at Georgetown offers a transformative experience for students looking to champion human rights and strengthen their communities. The program focuses on developing socially responsible, emotionally resilient leaders who can navigate conflicts, fight injustice, and create community programs. Participants refine public speaking, networking, and debate skills through workshops and activities, fostering effective communication and advocacy. Service projects, including donating supplies and clothing, recycling, and collaborating with local organizations, allow students to advocate for others and their communities. With engaging workshops, real-world simulations, Capitol Hill meetings, open discussions, and social events, the PALS Experience ensures a fun, dynamic learning environment where students create lasting friendships in a diverse, inclusive setting.

Startup UCLA: Social Entrepreneurship Summer Institute

The Startup UCLA: Social Entrepreneurship Summer Institute is a two-week hands-on program introducing students to the foundations of starting social enterprises and nonprofits. The first half focuses on researching and developing mission-oriented ventures, while the second half involves students forming teams to create their own ventures. Each team presents a five-minute pitch to a panel of entrepreneurs and investors for feedback. Participants are expected to complete coursework, examinations, and attend classes regularly, earning two units of credit for the course Community Engagement and Social Change upon successful completion of the program.

Tufts University - Leadership for Social Change

Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life offers a dynamic two-week summer experience for high school students eager to make a positive impact on local and global issues. Focused on advancing equity, inclusion, and civic participation, the program equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to become effective change agents. Participants explore critical civic engagement areas such as educational inequities, environmental justice, public policy, and grassroots social movements. The program encourages students to connect their passions with academic interests and provides opportunities to engage with Tufts faculty and community leaders who are actively making a difference.

Manhattan District Attorney's Office Gun Violence Prevention Fellowship

The Fellowship on Gun Violence Prevention, based in the Community Partnerships Unit within the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, offers a unique platform for individuals to develop and implement policies and strategies for preventing gun violence. Fellows may focus on mobilizing and educating young people in Manhattan communities, advocating for strong gun laws through local media, and fostering connections between young adults and existing advocacy networks. In this independent, self-driven summer experience, fellows collaborate with various units, including the Crime Strategies Unit, Legislative Affairs, Communications, and the Manhattan D.A. Academy. The program culminates with fellows presenting innovative, youth-focused policy or legislative solutions for addressing gun violence. is a nonprofit organization that provides a platform for young people around the world to drive social change. Members engage in various campaigns and programs, addressing causes that impact them and their communities. Participants choose from a range of campaign areas such as education/STEM, mental health, environment, and voter registration. Involvement earns volunteer hours and scholarship opportunities. Activities can be done in person or virtually, including attending events, contacting decision-makers, flagging online content, hosting events, sharing, collecting, donating, or signing petitions.