A peek into the 2021 Summer Youth Institute

The Summer Youth Institute is a curated learning experience for rising sophomore and junior high school students who are Mississippi residents. SYI develops leadership, self-awareness, and a deeper understanding of community in students who desire to make an impact. 

Students participate in themed workshops where they:

  • Learn the importance of relationship-building;
  • Internalize the value of using their voices;
  • Learn the significance of social and personal mindfulness and civic engagement.

Summer Youth Institute 2021

This year, Summer Youth Institute consisted of two virtual weeklong cohorts in June and July. Twenty Mississippi high school-age participants were selected for each cohort of the Summer Youth Institute 2021.

Developing Community Change Agents

At this year’s Summer Youth Institute, sessions centered on participants exploring Mississippi’s Civil Rights history and developing capacity as change-makers in their own communities. Over the 5 days, participants learned the importance of dialogue, educating themselves about important issues, and becoming more civically engaged. 

There was an increase from 5% pre-SYI to 77% after the institute’s session in students who agreed who said they felt equipped with the skills to be a change agent in their community.

Over seventy percent of participants share that post SYI, they are more likely to initiate/engage in conversations with teachers and/or school administrators regarding Civil Rights in their educational curriculum or the presence/absence of activities that celebrate identity groups other than their own.  Appreciating differences and developing empathy are important elements of creating a strong sense of community.


The 2021 Summer Youth Institute included guest presenters and sessions covering multi-generational conflict and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, college access and planning for life after college, and others.

Participant Takeaways from Summer Youth Institute


“SYI helped me to have a better idea of how to improve my community/where to start; gave me a better grasp on how to prepare for life after high school. I feel like the connections made during this conference will be helpful and hopefully life-long.”

“I’m glad I attended SYI because I learned about topics and views that I never knew about before, got to connect with people my age across Mississippi, shared my project ideas, and was able to get input and helpful suggestions.”

The Summer Youth Institute grew out of the hearts and minds of a group of college student and high school students. Students who wanted to help nurture and develop Mississippi’s next generation of leaders. That diverse group of young visionaries sought to develop a program and experience for younger Mississippians to learn to lead with equity, justice, history, and possibility in mind. Their vision, supported by the Winter Institute, on the University of Mississippi’s campus, and the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute, gave way to the first summer training in 2010.

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