Young Leaders Academy

High school students to explore the origins, development and contemporary impact of the U.S. Constitution in this four-day summer leadership conference.

Participants in a past YLA program.

Kentucky students who will have completed at least one grade of high school (as of summer 2022) are eligible to apply for the Young Leaders Academy, a summer residential leadership conference at the University of Louisville. The McConnell Center offers this annual program to outstanding high school students to help hone their leadership skills and further their understanding of American history.

The theme of the conference is "Revisiting American Constitutionalism." Applications for the next Young Leaders Academy will open in Early Spring 2022. 

Conference topics include:

  • The origins of written constitutions
  • Federalist-Anti-Federalist debates
  • Disagreements about the proper role of government in modern America
  • Role of federal courts and political institutions in modern America
  • What changes and amendments students might advocate to change our foundational law

Application Materials:

The following application materials must be submitted online. 

  • Resume - List your high school activities and leadership roles (not to exceed ONE typed page).
  • Leadership Essay - 1000 WORDS (MAX). Describe your ideal leader, how you relate to such a model of leadership, and why you want to attend YLA.
  • (optional) Recommendation - Submit one letter from a non-family member (e.g., teacher, coach, supervisor, administrator, etc.) familiar with your leadership abilities. You may either attach the recommendation yourself or have your recommender email their letter to Natalie Smith at 
  • Note: All application file attachments must be submitted in PDF format. 

Other Details: 

Participants will stay at the University of Louisville under the guidance of McConnell Center staff and university honors students. Participants will take part in a series of seminars, discussions, lectures, team-building activities and structured socials during their four-day stay.

Sessions will be led by faculty, staff and students of the University of Louisville and other area institutions and will be conducted at or near an entry level college experience.

Each participant will receive a scholarship for the Young Leaders Academy that includes free lodging, meals and all conference materials.

Priority consideration will be given to students who have NOT previously attended a YLA program.

“This will be a tremendous educational experience, but it is also a terrific opportunity for those who might be interested in being considered for McConnell Scholarships to the University of Louisville,” said Gary Gregg, director of the McConnell Center.

For more information, contact Natalie Smith, YLA Director, at 502-852-3947 or mccivics@louisville.edu.

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