ACLU Summer Institute

Photos from ACLU Summer Institute 2016

Program Overview

From free speech to privacy and from mass incarceration to voting rights, students will become experts on the issues currently being confronted in the United States’ courts and political arena.

The ACLU’s Summer Advocacy Institute will bring together a diverse group of students entering their junior and senior years of high school from across the United States to participate in an advanced, firsthand learning experience for the next generation of social justice advocates. Through an intensive 8-day program, students will learn directly from lawyers, lobbyists, community activists, and other experts working to defend the civil rights and liberties critical to a free and open society. The Close Up Foundation — a DC-based civic-education nonprofit — will serve as a partner with the ACLU to provide substantive experiential learning opportunities that help students hone their skills as issue-focused campaigners.

In classroom sessions, lectures, and daily debates, students will explore the complex nature of defending and advancing civil liberties as well as examine the importance of these freedoms in our current society. Students will be immersed in the real world of political and legal decision making in Washington, D.C., meeting with elected officials and community organizers as well as participating in workshops with civil rights pioneers and other current youth activists.

2016 Speakers Included:

2017 Speakers will be announced soon. Check back for updates.


Guest Workshops

Learn about effective tools for activists from journalists and social networking experts. Experience the passion of student activism, past and present, in a workshop with civil rights activists and the March on Washington Film Festival.



Discuss issues with congressional staff and lobbyists on the Hill.


The application period for 2017 ended on April 15. Please check back for updates on 2018 admissions.

Please be advised that students will be accepted on a rolling basis, with applications reviewed in the order in which they are received. Students will receive a decision by email within two weeks of the date their application is received. 


  1. Students must be entering their junior or senior year of high school.
  2. Have a strong interest in social justice, civil liberties, and advocacy.

Tuition & Fees: Room & Board

A tuition fee of $2,500 per student covers all experiential learning activities, off-campus social events, and all student meals, with the exception of those off-campus excursions where students are given supervised free time to explore and eat on their own. Transportation to and from Washington, D.C., will be arranged by Close Up, and information regarding travel arrangements will be included in acceptance material. Scholarships are available. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I or my child apply to the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute?

Q.How do I or my child apply to the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute?

The application period for 2017 ended on April 15. Please check back for updates on 2018 admissions.

2. Are scholarships available?

Q.Are scholarships available?

Yes, the ACLU is committed to providing limited scholarship positions for students who qualify. Transportation will also be included for students awarded full scholarships.

3. Will students participate in social activities?

Q.Will students participate in social activities?

There will be social and non-academic functions planned for students both on and off campus. Students will be given several opportunities to attend cultural events in and around Washington, D.C.

4. Who supervises students?

Q.Who supervises students?

Our partner organization, the Close Up Foundation, will be providing instructors and night monitors for the duration of the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute. Students will be supervised and accounted for at all times by Close Up staff. Night monitors reside in the dorms with students and are on-call throughout the evening. Close Up instructors participate in all off-campus activities and supervise evening social events. Students will have free time both on campus and off, but they will need to report to their supervising staff member prior to leaving and when they get back. Students have a nightly curfew of 10:30 p.m., unless a supervised off-campus activities ends late. University dormitories have 24-hour monitoring at building entrances.

5. How are rooms assigned?

Q.How are rooms assigned?

Students are housed in same-sex dorms. If two students request each other as roommates, we will do our best to accommodate it. However, we also want students to interact with the diverse student body and get to know their fellow participants. Each dormitory accommodates two students per room, and each room has its own bathroom.

6. How will my child get from the airport/train station to student housing?

Q.How will my child get from the airport/train station to student housing?

Travel must be booked through our partner organization, Close Up Foundation. In addition to booking travel (air and train), Close Up will provide pick-up and drop-off for all students at the beginning and end of the program week. This allows us to coordinate travel across several locations and with several students. In the case that a flight is missed or delayed, it means we can help you, as parents, make decisions about how to best get your child to the institute safely. On a case-by-case basis, we can accommodate individual travel for students who are being dropped off, or those who may already be in Washington, D.C. If parents want to arrange for their child outside of our travel site, they will be responsible for ensuring their child’s transportation to housing in the Washington area.

7. What are the procedures for students who get sick?

Q.What are the procedures for students who get sick?

We have an arrangement with Georgetown University’s medical facility to provide medical care for all students. Parents will sign a medical form upon their child’s acceptance to the program.

Contact Us


Phone: (212) 549-2517

Sign Up for Breaking News