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High School

Illinois Youth Summit

Youth have the power to bring about change. 

Since 1995, Illinois Youth Summit has given students an informed voice in discussions about current issues that affect them.  Normally held in the spring, the Youth Summit provides an opportunity for Illinois high school students to explore and debate these issues as participants in our democratic society.  A critical form of participation is discussion. But how do we listen to and evaluate opinions that often are very different from our own? How do we make decisions fairly? How do we accept outcomes with which we don’t necessarily agree?

The Illinois Youth Summit curriculum is designed to foster these vital conversations.

Each year, students from around Illinois study and assess two focus issues; survey other students about these subjects; share positions on one or more of the focus issues; and conduct a service project to teach one or more of these issues to other students.

Student delegates from each school then meet with real policymakers, adults from the community who work on these subjects on a daily basis, to share their thoughts and experiences.  After the Summit, delegates report back to their classes, and interested classes present their finished service-learning projects to other students.

The Summit always addresses current and controversial public policy issues chosen by the students. 

Examples of past questions include:

  • Should the Illinois General Assembly enact a law requiring all public schools to provide comprehensive sex education in grades 6-12?
  • Should the Illinois General Assembly enact a law banning the use of all red-light cameras?
  • Should the Illinois General Assembly enact a law allowing public high schools to use social media in teaching students?
Youth Summit Students Are Engaged

The objectives of the Illinois Youth Summit are to help students:

  • Analyze the facts and discuss different viewpoints relating to an important focus issue
  • Practice discussing and deliberating current public policy issues
  • Conduct an educational service project in their communities based on a Summit issue
  • Develop with other students a short position statement on one or more of the focus issues
  • Become actively involved in the culminating Youth Summit, either as a delegate or by helping to prepare a class delegation
  • Share learning from the Summit with other students
  • Discuss Controversial Public Issues in a democracy


If your school is interested in participating in the Illinois Youth Summit, contact Dee Runaas.


For 2021 Illinois Youth Summit Information, click here.

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