National Youth Summit – 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.


National Youth Summit on Democracy

From September 20-October 4, 2022, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will host a series of digital events for middle and high school students to critically examine the intersection of history and civics, with a particular emphasis on the connection between the portrayal of challenging history and the health and stability of the U.S. system of democracy. Through this experience, the museums nationwide will join vital national conversations about reconciliation and re-envisioning needed to strengthen the nation and keep the republic. The program will be grounded in the guiding question: How do the stories we tell about the past shape our democracy of the future?

Participants will grapple with concepts of reflective patriotism, civil disagreement, and storytelling during the 2022 event. Learning objectives will focus on developing students’ historical and civic literacy skills, including the ability to ask critical questions, identify gaps and seek counter narratives, and engage in productive discussion across divisions. Key experiences will include peer to peer discussions, interrogations of civic narratives past and present, and planning for active democratic engagement.

The 2022 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 some or all of the opening webcast broadcast by the National Museum of American History 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.

In 2022, Affiliate organizations can participate in two (2) different ways:

  • 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.
  • Distribution Hubs for Printed Learning Materials
    The 2022 Summit will feature zine-making as a tool for communication and civic action. 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.

How does an Affiliate apply to participate?
While the application process for funding has closed, we encourage Affiliates to consider participating with your community with similar events and programs. 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.