Benefits and Impact of Youth Summits

Youth Summits provide lasting benefit to students, their educators, and the partners and communities involved. Civic engagement, leadership, and stewardship of historic landmarks are critical to the survival of our democracy and the heritage which makes the United States a special place to live for all of its citizenry. The Youth Summits provide a tested and effective venue for these hallmarks to be applied and learned. They create a way in which students, teachers, and community members can collaboratively continue to infuse teaching about our history, geography, culture, and landscapes into myriad of educational settings.
Two students standing in front of a labor movement exhibit board. Youth Summits photo, by Beth Boland.


Through Summits, students have the opportunity to participate in real-life advocacy, service activities, and policy-shaping experiences that both prepare them for work in the 21st century and also provide critical workforce readiness skills.

This readiness is a national focus for all students in the United States and a core component of the National Core Content Standards adopted by more than 40 states in the nation.

Additionally, young people gain invaluable experience by being treated as "consultants" in visits to historic places; students provide ideas and recommendations on critical current issues. This experience empowers youth to learn more about history, culture, and historic preservation. Service projects at local sites train youth in specific trade-related skills. Young people gain valuable leadership, communication, and organizational skills. With these skills, students are more likely to become better citizens and advocates who will maintain an interest and understanding of history, conservation, and historic preservation throughout their lives.

Research shows that students who participate in these types of activities have a higher chance of graduating from high school, college, or trade school, and go on to lead productive lives that have a component of stewardship in both their personal and philanthropic activities.

Finally, Summits provide students with the opportunity to stay actively involved in learning, apply what they have learned, and receive the ongoing support of local, state, and national partners.


Youth Summits provide inspiration for educators, service leaders, or other mentors. Those who are dedicated to teaching young people face increasing challenges in meeting the needs of diverse student populations. Coupled with ongoing financial and time challenges, educators are looking for meaningful teaching experiences and applications that help meet standards, while also engaging 21st century learners in activities that challenge them to think at higher levels and reach for excellence in their work.The Youth Summit format aligns directly with the 21st century Skills Standards and the National Core Content Standards. Both of these programs are research-based and nationally accepted. More importantly, the programs have a strategic focus on higher level analysis and synthesis and in the application, and dissemination of skills. These critical thinking skills can help prepare students to be ready for the workforce.

The Youth Summit links to all of these ideas by allowing students to:

  • Learn on-site from scholars and professionals in their field
  • Analyze challenges and opportunities facing historic sites, communities, and public lands
  • Synthesize data from a variety of sources and partners to reach an outcome
  • Apply what they have learned in their own communities and recommend changes that will make a difference to all the partners involved in the Summit
  • Disseminate what they have learned and share the outcomes of the Summit with their families, fellow students and colleagues, and the community at large
Professional educators clearly understand the importance of these skills, but cannot teach these in isolation. Historic preservation, conservation, and heritage tourism provide important and relevant vehicles for teaching content that is often left out of textbooks and core classes. It is critical also to provide a means for teaching civic skills and civic action to all our students so that they can participate fully in our democracy. Through the use of 21st century skills in this context, students leave the program with a clear understanding not only their rights as citizens in a democracy, but their responsibilities, as well.

Significantly, a key goal of the Youth Summits is a lasting and sustained impact on the community. All Youth Summits feature interaction with preservation stakeholders, community leaders, and policymakers and include outreach and public events as a vital part of programming.

Through site visits, meetings, and forums, Youth Summit participants bring fresh, unfiltered new ideas, as well as enthusiasm to invigorate community efforts and inspire stakeholders. Involving youth in decision-making can offer perspectives to improve marketing, advocacy and outreach, thereby creating ongoing buy-in from local stakeholders. Youth Summits provide a critical lens for participants to view communities and develop a deeper understanding of the varied tapestry of the culture and landscape that make the community special. After the Summit, participants have a tangible link to where they have visited and can share in the marketing and advocacy for the community across the state. This provides a youth voice, which supports efforts stemming from the community they have visited and touches an often forgotten marketing segment.

Past Youth Summits have made this happen in very simple and meaningful ways, including:

  • Changing family vacations to explore small unique communities that have exciting places of their own to visit
  • Moving a scout trip to a little-known historic location, providing service to a community that would have not received it otherwise
  • Advocating for lesser-recognized projects and towns in a large urban forum of policy-makers when the community could not attend itself
  • Creating opportunities for students to research and present about cultures across their region that are not illuminated in standard textbooks and curriculum, showing the importance of these historic places and stories to many different types of audiences
  • Working to raise funds and collaborate across the miles to build lasting and productive friendships and partnerships that are productive and can become long-term and sustained
Sponsors and Partners poster. Youth Summits photo, by Beth Boland

The Youth Summit can expand outreach for organizations, while also increasing the impact of the organization's mission. For partner organizations, whether the lead partner or supporting partners, the benefits of facilitating a program with youth and teachers are many.

For all organizations, the association with a youth and educational program can satisfy mission goals, expand appeal to new audiences, and new constituencies, and afford increased opportunities for funding and sponsorship. For preservation organizations, the collaboration or affiliation with students brings in an important demographic and can significantly expand the impact when encouraging the Youth Summit participants to share results with their families, friends, and related networks. Preservation organizations, whether at the neighborhood, local, regional, or state level, often lack this expansive a network or opportunity for expansion. Preservation organizations can more broadly appeal to a larger constituency when they can discuss who actually cares or benefits from a preservation effort.
Any organizational partner—including government agencies, nonprofit organizations or other affiliated groups-- sees intrinsic, demonstrable results from working with youth. For all organizations, there are four essential benefits:

1. Having youth speak for a place or issue can soften opposition and increase positive reaction, as youth articulate the opinions of future stakeholders.

2. There is widespread interest in improving educational opportunities for America's youth and an altruistic satisfaction in acknowledging association with youth programs that can satisfy mission objectives and appeal to both funders and new collaborators.

3. Youth trigger urgency to action with their enthusiasm and energy--basically youth can "unstick" issues or challenges with their unfiltered perspectives.

Youth Summits can be fun and entertaining and enliven opportunities for organizations to expand their networks, while also invigorating staff--both volunteer and salaried--to implement programs or succeed in projects.
Click here to download the complete Youth Summits Guide and Planning Tools as a .pdf

Last updated: June 23, 2016

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