Join the Conversation

The National Youth Summit brings middle and high school students together with scholars, teachers, policy experts, and activists in a national conversation about important events in America’s past that have relevance to the nation’s present and future. Since 2011, Smithsonian Affiliates have been hosts of Regional Youth Summits, amplifying the program and augmenting it with related programming tied to the Affiliate organization’s content for its local community of students.


Confronting Bias through Gender Equity

From September 21-October 11, 2021, the National Museum of American History will host a series of digital events to critically examine the meanings of gender and its construction, and how to disrupt gender bias.

The series kicks off on September 21 with the National Youth Summit on Confronting Bias through Gender Equity. Drawing on the stories and content featured in the National Museum of American History’s new exhibition Girlhood (It’s complicated!), participants will explore four learning modules that feature paired stories of individuals confronting bias and fighting for gender equity.

The September 21 Summit will include live webcasts, discussion prompts and facilitation strategies, and a scheduled time during which we invite students nationwide to participate in discussion (please note that we encourage discussions to take place both synchronously and asynchronously and at times that make sense for students and communities).

Affiliate Partner Collaboration

What do Regional Summits do?
Regional Summits connect with their local middle and high schools and invite students to participate in the National Youth Summit by watching two, 15-minute webcasts and engaging in Regional Summit-led discussion about the history and driving question. As programming during COVID presents unprecedented challenges, we encourage Regional Summits to think creatively about how to engage students in synchronous and/or asynchronous conversation.

Regional Summits can tie their programming to their own content, as well as to the history in their own community’s history.

How can Affiliate organizations participate? 

In 2021, Affiliate organizations are invited to participate in three (3) different ways:

Standard Regional Summits

Standard Regional Summits

Regional Summits engage their local school communities to invite middle and high school students in critical discussions connected to the summit topic. Regional Summits receive:

  • Educational resources for preparing and leading student discussions
  • Guidance in developing your Regional Summit program
  • Promotion on NMAH and Smithsonian digital channels about your museum’s participation as a Regional Summit
  • Press release templates and social media content
  • Printed materials to distribute to local communities with limited access to internet-connected devices.

Up to 20 Regional Summits will be selected to participate. Each selected Regional Summit will receive $1,000 to defray expenses related to the program. Programming must take place solely via digital means.

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Spotlight Regional Summits

Spotlight Regional Summits

Through a new pilot program, five Regional Summits will be selected to be “Spotlight” Regional Summits. These Regional Summits facilitate programming AND provide pre-recorded / pre-packaged digital content (videos, digital exhibitions, etc.) to be included on the National Youth Summit’s web hub of learning resources. Our goal is to feature content from museums and cultural institutions around the nation that can illuminate diverse communities, perspectives and experiences in American history.

Up to five Affiliates will be selected for this augmented role. These selected Affiliates will receive an additional $500 to support the cost of creating or repurposing digital content. Programming must take place solely via digital means.

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Distribution Hubs for Printed Learning Materials

Distribution Hubs for Printed Learning Materials

The 2021 Summit will feature zine-making as a tool for communication and civic action. All selected Regional Summits will be provided with a package of printed zine-making templates and curricular resources to distribute to local communities in need. An additional five Affiliate Organizations may be selected to serve as a Distribution Hub of these resources, without facilitating programming.

Up to five Affiliate Organizations will be selected as Distribution Hubs. All materials, but no financial support, will be provided.

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Affiliates serving as Regional Summits are encouraged to hold programs on September 21, 2021 but may complete programming any time before October 12. Regional Summits should include at least 10 students.

How does an Affiliate apply to participate? 

Please complete the online application form to apply. Please review and compile all the necessary material before beginning to apply. You cannot save and return to the form. If you have questions, please email

National Youth Summit logo
National Youth Summit at the Japanese American National Museum auditorium where a student speaks at a standing mic with a panel of 5 adults seated behind him.

The Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, California) participated in the National Youth Summit on Japanese American Incarceration in World War II on May 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of JANM.

Past National Youth Summit Programs

Teen Resistance to Systemic Racism

The 2020 summit was centered on the case study of Claudette Colvin—a 15-year-old Black student in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Colvin refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus and testified in the legal case that brought an end to segregated busing in Montgomery.