Leadership Conferences for Teens

Parent Q&A

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  • HI, Any experience with Global Leadership Adventures? Online reviews seems very positive but would love to hear from anyone who has sent their teen on a trip with them. Thanks! 

    My daughter did a GLA trip to Costa Rica as a rising high school freshman.  (She is now a freshman in college.)  It was a great experience and she really enjoyed it. She met kids from all over, and loved the program. I would highly recommend GLA.

    Yes- my daughter did it and it was great!  She is now 26 and still talks about how it changed her life!

  • Our daughter seems to be getting college stuff in the mail which seems par for the course at this point as a Junior in high school. She's pretty much an all A's student and we're really trying to learn the ropes of college planning and opportunities. We also got something in the mail that sounds interesting. It's called the National Student Leadership Conference. It apparently offers one week experiences on campuses around the U.S. to learn about career genres and learn leadership skills while learning a little about living on a college campus. I guess my question is, how does one find out if it's a well run program? I'm mostly concerned about safety, but also who the people running the program are and how much they pay attention to the kids, how much kids seem to get out of it, cost vs. other programs like this, etc. Any recommendations on how to find out about programs like these? Like is there some kind of website that rates these kinds of week long programs for kids maybe with people's experiences? Thanks.

    The Nat’l Student Leadership Conference is a crock. They market themselves to high-achieving kids, having guessed that their parents will likely have lofty college aspirations for their kids. I’m guessing your daughter scored decently high on the PSAT. My best college advice is to encourage your kid to work hard at school (which it sounds like she is doing), balance herself with some social/down time, and engage herself deeply in one or more extracurricular activities that she is very interested in, which will help her learn about herself and make her college essays more compelling.

    My son did a 10 day program several years ago and he loved it! He had never been to sleep away camp so it was his first time away. He loved the activities, met like-minded kids and made great friends. It also helped him get a sense of the type of colleges he wanted to apply to. The marketing is definitely off-putting but the program was great!

  • My son is a good student in high school, particularly in math and science, but he's not always the most ambitious; his ideal summer would apparently consist of playing video games in his room, all day, every day. This is not acceptable to me, so I'm investigating things for him to do this summer that would increase his knowledge, physical fitness, emotional growth, and/or attractiveness to colleges. So far he has vetoed everything we've suggested (he's particularly unwilling to do any overnight programs (such as COSMOS or SUMAC) that involve being away from home for more than a week or so). Another piece of information to take into account here is that we are fortunate enough to be able to pay for summer activities without cost being a major limitation.

    Given all that, the one summer program that he is wililng to apply for is the National Youth Leadership Conference (https://www.nslcleaders.org/youth-leadership-programs/engineering-summe…). It has been reviewed on BPN (and elsewhere) and the general conclusion is that it's overpriced and not useful for college admission, but the kids enjoyed it and learned something. That's good enough for me.

    Now here's my question: we recently got mail from ANOTHER summer program, the National Youth Leadership Forum (https://www.envisionexperience.com/explore-our-programs/national-youth-…). Not only does it have an almost identical name; it seems to have an almost identical program (and similarly outrageous price). Can anyone enlighten me about the difference between NYLC and NYLF?

    No responses received.

  • Curious if anyone has sent their child to any of the NSLC schools/programs.  Worth it?  Particular ones better than others?  Any info you can share is appreciated!

    My daughter did the NSLC Theater program summer before last at Fordham/Lincoln Center.  It was very well run and she enjoyed it.  Our primary motivation in sending her was to give her a chance for a pre-college baby step toward independence.  (They're pretty closely monitored, so there's not that much independence but it was an opportunity for her to be away from home.) After having a good experience at NSLC, she did a longer, much more independent program last summer.

    If you're looking at NSLC to burnish college credentials, don't. The only way it helps in that respect is that if your kid has a true "passion," it can be one more thing to evidence that passion, but otherwise, I think most college admissions officers don't find participation in the program to be impressive.  That being said, if you have the money, your kid has an interest, and/or you're looking for your kid to spend some time away from home, it's a good option. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews



National Student Leadership Conf. and/or JSA

Feb 2012

Hi - we're looking for something meaningful and engaging for our son this summer - he's interested in politicals, the election, government service, United Nations, and the like. He's a smart cookie, very responsible, very good student, just finishing his sophomore year at a local private school. Not a nerd, not a brainic, just a very solid citizen interested in the inner workings of democracy. He's looking into the Summer Institute at Georgetown (or is it George Washington) offered by the Junior Statesman of America. This looks interesting and high-end and would give him an opportunity to go East and live on campus and meet with high-powered insider-types. Very appealing. But it also seems quite academic (term paper and all) and would prefer a break from that over the summer (which is understandable). We just received a brochure from the National Student Leadership Conference . They appear to have great offerings that look right up his alley (''Experience the Life of a Diplomat'', ''US Policy and Politics''). But who are these folks? Has anyone had direct dealings with either organization and could offer feedback on the pros and cons of either program? There is no JSA at my son's campus, and I think he'd have to start his own chapter, and I'm not sure he's up for that. If anyone has any leads on other great summer programs of this sort, either local or back East, we'd be very grateful to benefit from your experience. mom of future senator

Your 10th grade son should go to the Junior Statesman of America (JSA) rather than the National Student Leadership Conference. The JSA is a well-respected and well-known organization.

My daughter attended 2 of the Nat'l Student Leadership conferences. They were very expensive and not too loaded with content. Basically, it is similar to a ''Who's Who'' in the professional world...if someone doesn't know about it, it looks impressive, but it really isn't. She didn't learn very much in the Nat'l Student Leadership conferences, which she attended in 8th grade and then went to Obama's inauguration in 11th grade. The inauguration trip, in particular, was not very well organized After being promised that they the group would attend the inauguration, my daughter's group was sequestered in a cafe to watch the inauguration on a big screen t.v. She was able to attend an inaugural ball, however.

My daughter had a high school friend, who was a member of the Junior Statesman, and their organization was much more valuable in terms of the content and learning opportunities. Best of luck to your son! go with the JSA

Girls Leadership Institute

Jan 2012

Hello, We are thinking of sending our seventh grade daughter to summer camp with the Girl's Leadership Institute. If you have experience with this camp we are wondering: 1) how was the camp overall 2) what did your daughter gain from this camp 3) have you seen a long lasting change in her 4) How did the staff handle home sickness 5) what kinds of girls are drawn to this camp 6) had you found a possible alternative, if so what was it, when you looked at camps for your daughter that caused you to choose gli over that camp. Thanks so much Leah

My niece went to the Girls Leadership Inst program last summer at Smith College. She is shy, and her parents thought it would be good for her. She liked it, but I don't think it was life-changing for her. I don't know much more, it seemed fine, but not amazing. anon

Junior Statesmen of America experience?

Nov 2011

Wondering whether any BPN families have any direct experience with the Junior Statesmen of America program in general, and more specifically, with the summer residence programs on the East Coast. Our 16-year-old son is very interested in political science, government, law and diplomacy, and I'm impressed with the program as described on the website. Would a liberal kid from Berkeley find a place in this group? Is there a comparable program out there that we should pursue for next summer that would better serve his interests? Any feedback on JSA and/or other like programs would be much appreciated. Mom of future public servant

I have a young friend (I consider her a virtual daughter), now a junior at Stanford, who was very involved in JSA while in high school. She helped organize their regional meetings and attended their summer program at Georgetown. She loved JSA, loved the Georgetown program, and developed both a deeper appreciation of the politican system and terrific leadership skills. It sounds like a great match for your son. Mom of big guys (and virtual mom of some girls)

Junior Statesmen of America is a wonderful organization. I was a chapter president when I was in high school and learned a tremendous amount. I attended a summer program at UC Davis, which was fantastic. I'm sure the summer program in DC would be great as well. You asked if a liberal Berkeley kid would fit in socially... JSA is comprised of kids with a full-spectrum of political perspectives. For teens, it's a great learning opportunity to find out that you may like a person as an individual, even if you have different political views. Another program, which is similar to JSA, is the YMCA's Youth & Government, which my daughter is involved in. One of the differences between the two programs is that JSA [at least when I was a student] was more student-run than Y In JSA we planned every aspect of the program including all of the conferences, from the conference content to arranging hotels and transportation. JSA offered tremendous leadership opportunities. Kids do a lot in terms of running Y as well, but the program does have a young adult staff [who are great role models, by the way]. I endorse both programs. Through her involvement in Y I have seen my daughter become more mature, politically aware and interested in public service. These are the types of programs teens should be encouraged to join! fan of JSA & Y

National Young Leaders State Conference?

July 2006

Has anyone sent their 8th or 9th grader to the National Young Leaders State Conference? My child received a nomination and I want to know if this is worth attending. It is a 4 day conference in San Jose for nominated students that costs $1325 offered this Fall and winter. thanks for your help. looking for advice

My daughter went to NYLC a couple of years ago and did not find it that valuable, tho she met some great kids there that have become fast friends. We were all caught up in the idea that she was ''nominated'' but it really is a good marketing strategy targeted to kids with decent academics. Our daughter thought the info was too basic and that the ''prestiguous'' speakers promised were not necessarily notables and not so inspiring. Overall, not a horrible expereience but not worth the money either. olivella

This doesn't directly answer your question, but my 16 year old son just came back from a 10 day session for the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. He went because two students that had been there before him raved about it, one even said it was the best week of his life! My son came back tonight and also seems very pleased with it. He returned with no complaints(!) and only spoke highly of his experiences. He seems to have learned about the national government and D.C. in general, and has made many friends around the country. I don't think they ever had a chance to get bored as they kept a very busy schedule. How this translates to the younger age group or to the state program, I don't know. I just had to weigh in on the associated program. It really has a lot to offer. New Fan of NYLC

Invitation from National Young Leaders Conference

July 2004

My daughter received an invitation by mail to the National Young Leaders Conference. Does anyone know what this is and whether it is worthwhile? It lists a number of people in Congress on its board, but I don't know whether that means anything or not. Thanks

My son recently received a solicitation from a similar sounding organization, ''National Youth Leadership Conference.'' This mailing also looked very impressive, with numerous national political leaders listed as board members/speakers for the group. It looked fairly legitimate on its website, and so I checked with my son's school's college advisor. She told me that yes, in fact it's a very legitimate, well-thought of program, but because of its expense, kids shouldn't do it just to bolster their college resumes -- i.e. lower income kids have much less access, and college admissions officers are fully aware of the costs associated with the program (many kids are ''nominated'' for invitations by way of high PSAT scores). So it could be a good experience for your daughter, assuming that the program suits her. I'd check with a college advisor to get more details on this particular program. Wary of programs that look too good to be true

My daughter just went to Washington DC for an international politics session and absolutely loved it. This was despite the fact that she got bronchitis and was very sick toward the end. It was definitely expensive and the mixture of students there reflected that , including some that were very vocally conservative. These were very strange creatures for a Berkeley High student to meet, but it made the debates lively. Overall, I think the camp was worth it because my daughter was so committed and put a lot of time into preparation beforehand, also it was well-run and fun.

Close-Up Washington

My 16-year-old daughter is interested in going on the Close-Up Washington trip to DC through her school. Has anyone had experience with this program? Good, bad, worth the money, not worth the money, etc?

On the Close-Up Trip to Washington, DC: My son went last spring and found the trip, as well as the group meetings in preparation for the trip, a very valuable experience. The two teachers who do the program - Mr. Teel and Mr. Collier - are very good. For someone interested in politics and world events, as my son is, it was a terrific learning experience. He would be willing to talk to your daughter if she's considering going. You can e-mail me privately. Miriam

This is in response to the woman who asked about the Close-Up Washington trip. My information is second- and third-hand. Last year I had an adult student whose sixteen year old daughter went (my students are low income and I helped sponsor her daughter so I got a report-back from both mother and daughter). The trip was wonderful for her; she loved the other kids and the activities. From what I heard, it seemed that the trip was well organized, well supervised and interesting. It seemed that they met with interesting people and worked hard. Lynn

Close-Up is a fantastic experience for high school students. I've worked with them for the past 25 years. The cost is high but that would be the case if you were to stay in D.C. on your own. The real advantage is that the students room with students from around the country and are able to appreciate the great differences in political values and attitudes. The staff is energetic and committed to making the week a highlight of the students entire high school experience. I hope your son or daughter is able to go. Feel free to contact me for more information.
Steve Teel
Berkeley High School, History Department