High-School Program Overview

View our new brochure for the high-school program in PDF form here.


Cultural Leadership students participate in an intensive year of over 420 hours of programming, including cultural activities, public speaking, leadership training, travel, and facilitated discussions on diversity and creating social change. Through these activities, students gain an increased awareness of their own and each other’s history, religion, and culture, and learn valuable skills for facilitating discussions, solving problems, and making change. Cultural Leadership is training the next generation of civil rights activits, or - as we fondly call them - “troublemakers of the best kind!”



Watch this video created by HEC-TV to learn more about the Cultural Leadership year-long experience.

Our Year...

August through December: Students and families begin the year in late August with a Journey Kick-Off Welcome Party. The opening weekend retreat in September sets the foundation for the group's year-long activities. Students participate in activities focused on self-awareness and identity, and begin to learn about the concept of privilege and oppression. Students continue to meet monthly to learn about history, culture, and contemporary issues. Parents also participate in two to three programs during which they learn similar concepts. 


January through May: Students learn the core skills needed to create change in their communities: leadership, facilitation, and community organizing. The January retreat teaches students facilitation skills. It  includes a practice facilitation session, giving students the chance to invite guests and engage them in a  Courageous Conversation. An important part of the curriculum is the School Swap, which that takes place in the fall. Students visit a school different from their own to learn first-hand about education inequity. Spring workshops teach students how to engage others in supporting their passion. Also in the spring, students and their families attend either a Passover Seder dinner or an Easter Sunday service. This Holiday Swap immerses them in another culture and religion. Then, at  the April retreat, students learn about successful activists and change agents through the lens of the Civil Rights Movement and explore how they can become activists in their own communities. 


During the month of June, students embark on a Transformational Journey. They travel to U.S. cities throughout the northeast, mid-Atlantic, and southern American states, visiting people and places significant to social justice and the Civil Rights Movement. Destinations shift each year but can include: New York City; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; Washington D.C.; Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuskegee and Selma, AL; Little Rock, AR; several cities in Mississippi; New Orleans, LA; Whitwell and Memphis, TN. They meet and visit people and organizations that have made — and are still making – significant contributions to improving society. Adult trip leaders accompany students and facilitate nightly discussions.


In July and August, students and their families meet to process and reflect upon the Transformational Journey and the entire year-long experience. Students hone their speechmaking skills and are ready to Stand Up, Speak Out, and Take Action! Students take on more high-profile leadership roles as they visit schools, houses of worship, and community centers to facilitate discussions with their peers on issues of discrimination and social justice.To conclude Cultural Leadership, students graduate in a ceremony that highlights their experience, their journey, and their growth. Everyone is welcome to attend.



Application and Selection Process

Each year, a diverse group of 24-30 high school students are selected to participate in Cultural Leadership. Interested freshmen and sophomores must submit a completed application form, two letters of recommendation, a photo of themselves, and a copy of their high-school transcript (unofficial).

After applications have been reviewed, promising candidates are invited to a group interview. Final selections are based students’ application and interview. Applications for the 2019-2020 program year are now open! Please click here for more information on the application process before applying.



Cultural leadership is an investment in a student’s leadership skills and cultural understanding. Tuition includes ongoing training and coaching by an experienced facilitation team, expert topic-area speakers (often University Professors) at every program, three local weekend retreats, and during the three-week Transformational Journey in the summer, Cultural Leadership provides food, lodging, transportation, and admission to all venues for the students.  The real cost of this once-in-a-lifetime year is approximately $10,000 per student.

Funding from our broad base of corporations, foundations, and individuals enables Cultural Leadership to set tuition below true program cost per student. And we are committed to equity, such that the cost for each participant is different depending on available family resources.

Tuition for Cultural Leadership's high-school program is determined on a sliding scale system.

Upon acceptance we will request that you self-report information about your financial situation that will help Cultural Leadership determine what your family will pay, between $250-$3500 for the program year.

Tuition includes a non-refundable deposit, proportionate to your level on the sliding scale, due shortly after acceptance and agreement to participate in the program, which is deducted from your overall due fee. All details and income brackets will be shared in the interview & selection process.

Do not let the cost deter you from submitting an application or participating in the program!We are committed to working with every family to make participation possible.

Every tuition level is eligible for payment plans in up to 6 monthly payments, July-December of the program year.

During the program year, each family is expected to collaborate with another family to provide 2-3 meals or snacks to the whole group.

Nominate Someone for Cultural Leadership

Nominations for Class 15 are now open. If you know a curious, courageous, change-the-world-type teen who has leadership potential, an interest in social justice, and a commitment to participate, let us know and we will send him or her an application packet when they become available! To nominate a student, please send an email to apply@culturalleadership.org with...

  1. your name
  2. the student’s name
  3. the student's email address
  4. the student's high school, and
  5. the reason you are nominating him or her


Additional Resources