The Summer Youth Institute grew out of the minds and hearts of a group of University of Mississippi students who desired to help nurture and develop Mississippi’s next generation of leaders. These students, who were diverse across identities and experiences, sought to experience the ways in which their diversity was an asset in working together and to help other future cohorts of Mississippi youth do the same. Their vision, coupled with assistance from the Winter Institute and the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute, gave way to the first summer training in 2010, which has now evolved to serve twenty-eight rising high school sophomores and juniors annually for nearly a decade.

Now a nine-day, experiential learning program, SYI serves as a powerhouse for developing leadership and advocacy skills in students who desire to make an impact in their communities. At the institute, students undergo themed workshops where they learn the importance of relationship building; internalize the value of using their voices; and learn the significance of social and personal mindfulness and civic engagement.

The Summer Mentor Program selects just 8 people each year to serve as Mentors for our Summer Youth Institute. Our Mentors are passionate about helping young people realize their incredible potential. They embody the qualities we look for in our student participants – highly motivated, patient, and energetic – and ask them to model appropriate and respectful behavior. This unique opportunity involves being a big sister/brother, confidante, role model and mentor while maintaining a very high level of professionalism.

Our mentors are young adults, college graduates, graduate students, and educators (usually between 22 and 30 years old), have experience working with culturally and/or socio-economically diverse young people, and possess a solid knowledge base of U.S. racial history, civil rights and human rights history, and anti-oppression/anti-racist frameworks. Those who have served as Mentors come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. We have had Mentors from Mississippi to South Africa, Columbia University to the University of Washington.