Our future depends on young people being civically engaged. The Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) creates leaders by equiping college students with the knowledge and skills to be effective advocates for our generation.  


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SLI is a five-day advanced training academy that connects students with experts in policy, advocacy, leadership, strategic communications, organizing, and governance. Attendees will put this education into practice by participating in a project-based learning process throughout the week.   

Students will take what they learn and use that knowledge to craft an advocacy project that will help them tackle real issues facing young people today. The results of this project typically influence the advocacy direction of Virginia21 in the subsequent academic year!


SLI teaches leadership through a host of interactions with people who are experts at what they do. You'll gain hands-on communications skills from media specialists, learn the tips and tricks of how lobbyists influence legislation, and engage with public officials to gain inside knowledge on what it's like to govern. All sessions are interactive and include practical training simulations to enable participants to transform new knowledge into useful skills. 

Some highlights include:

  Understanding Virginia state government and how you can influence it

Understanding Virginia state government and how you can influence it

  The art of organizing to effect change in your community

The art of organizing to effect change in your community

  Navigating the political process through the lens of an advocate

Navigating the political process through the lens of an advocate

  Developing a compelling message through strategic communications

Developing a compelling message through strategic communications

Sessions are taught by experts in their respective fields and combined with other workshops and panel discussions to create a summit of engagement. We bring talented Virginians to you to prepare you to be the leader Virginia needs you to be.


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SLI will instill leadership skills and practical knowledge that will benefit you beyond your academic career.

Here's what former graduates have to say:

“I went into SLI not really knowing what to expect. I began my affiliation with Virginia21 with the belief that college students can actually make a difference in the Commonwealth, and at SLI we learned about the steps to actually accomplishing that.” – Will Morgan-Palmer, 2013 Graduate


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“Through SLI, I learned how to lobby, how to organize, and how to channel my passion into an effective, compelling message. This program show me how to use my leadership for the greater good and fight for those who haven't had the same opportunities” – Zöe Craig, 2016 Graduate,



1. All students at public four-year Virginia colleges are eligible to apply (no prior experience with Virginia21 is needed). Students from several community colleges and private institutions are also eligible. Find out if your institution is included by emailing tim@virginia21.org.

2. Applications are open to any college student regardless of past experience with VA21. However, if selected to participate, the applicant must commit to participate in VA21 activities for the next academic year. 

3. Participants must not graduate before spring of 2019 (December 2018 graduates are not eligible).

4. Be able to attend all sessions and activities for the entirety of the Summer Leadership Institute from July 18th–22nd, 2018.

5. Admission for 4-year public school and Richard Bland students is $150, which covers all expenses including sessions, housing, food, and parking for the week. However, we don't want financial barriers to prohibit anyone from attending so participants may apply for scholarships of up to $100. Admission for community college and private school students is contingent upon a sponsorship from your school.

Please send questions to our Director of Engagement, Tim Cywinski, at tim@virginia21.org. The application deadline is May 25th. What are you waiting for?