Changemakers Institute

Institute Overview

The YMCA Changemakers Institute is a virtual summer program available to all high school students in grades 9-12, including incoming 9th grade students and graduating high school seniors (the graduating classes of 2021 to 2025).

Institute participants will develop a Changemaker Initiative addressing an issue in their local communities as a member of one of our Changemaker Cohorts:

  • Abuse & Violence Prevention
  • Climate Action & Sustainability
  • Education Reform & Student Voice
  • Gender Equity & LGBTQ Rights
  • Hunger, Homelessness, & Poverty
  • Mental Health
  • Physical & Sexual Health/Wellness
  • Racial Equity & Justice
  • Youth Employment & Workforce Readiness
  • Voting Rights

This year’s cohorts were selected based on a national survey of our past Changemaker Institute participants who were asked to identify the most important issues facing young people in their communities. Participants are encouraged to address any issue from any belief, perspective, or position as part of their initiative.

By the conclusion of the Institute, students will have launched their initiatives and completed their Changemaker Certification to include in their resumes, college applications, and academic records.

Changemaker Institute Registration Form

Registration Deadline:
Registration for this year’s Changemakers Institute has now closed. If you have any questions, please email

Institute Fee: $100

If the Institute reaches capacity prior to the registration deadline, a waiting list will be opened for additional participants. Students on the waiting list will be contacted if spaces become available.

Need-based scholarships are available to interested participants. Please email for more information.


Institute Programming

The Institute will take place from June 14th to August 6th – see our full Institute Calendar, with participants working on their initiatives in a variety of virtual formats, each designed to offer different levels of interactivity and collaboration:

  • Institute Seminars (Monday, 90 min) – Each week will kick-off with an Institute Seminar on Monday afternoon for all participants with special guest speakers, panelists, professors, public officials, policymakers, and partners.
  • Changemaker Cohorts (Tuesday OR Wednesday, 90 min.) – All participants will be assigned to a Changemaker Cohort based on your preferred area of focus during registration. Each cohort (20+ students) will meet on either Tuesday or Wednesday each week, and serve as a collaborative work space and support network as participants develop and implement their Changemaker Initiatives. Cohorts will be led by 2 student captains (indicate your interest when registering), a YMCA staff/volunteer facilitator, and a specialist with expertise/experience in your cohort’s area of focus.
  • Office Hours (Thursday, 3-5pm ET) – The final virtual format each week will be our Institute Office Hours, when participants can schedule a 15-minute personal check-in with our Institute Staff and Facilitators/Specialists (as available) to discuss their Changemaker Initiatives.
  • Panel Presentations (Final Week of Institute) – The Institute culminates with participants presenting their Changemaker Initiatives to a panel of local, state, and national leaders.


Institute Volunteers

We have two types of roles available for adult volunteers ages 21 and over (or two years post-high school graduation/equivalent):

Institute Facilitator
Facilitators will support our student Cohort Captains as they lead discussions each week during cohort meetings, and serve as mentors to the participants in their cohorts as they develop and implement their initiatives.

Institute Specialist
Specialists are professionals or experts with experience in the specific area of focus of each cohort, providing guidance, best practices, research, and strategies as participants develop and implement their initiatives.

Facilitator & Specialist Application

Time Commitment: Facilitators and Specialists are expected to attend one 90-minute weekly meeting (either Tue. or Wed., depending on the cohort) over the course of 6 weeks (with a holiday break of June 27 РJuly 4).

All facilitators and specialists must have a current background check on file (if you do not have a current background check, please reach out to, and must also complete a child safety training prior to the Institute.


Institute Donors & Sponsors

Additionally, we are also seeking alumni and generous donors interested in helping create scholarships for potential participants. If you would like to help sponsor scholarships for the Institute, please email