Smithsonian’s Annual Youth Summit Connects Students Across the Country To Engage in Conversations About Gender Equity

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in partnership with Smithsonian Affiliations, will host its National Youth Summit, an annual online outreach program, between Sept. 21 and Oct. 12. Designed for middle and high school students across the country, this year’s topic will invite participants to examine gender equity and bias through various lenses, from sports and politics to music, fashion and identity.

Two live events are scheduled: the first Sept. 21, 1–4 p.m. ET, and the second Oct. 12, 1–3 p.m. ET. Teachers may register their classrooms for both webcasts and access to free supplementary education materials. Teachers may also facilitate their own “youth summits” during that time period by using learning resources and videos provided free to all registered educators.

“The construction of gender and gendered expectations in our society has impacted young people across time, resulting in inequities and limiting access to career and other potential paths,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the museum’s Elizabeth MacMillan Director. “This National Youth Summit will provide a national platform for teens to grapple with the enduring question of what the future of gender equity will look like.”

The live program Sept. 21 will feature talks, workshops and discussions with scholars, historians and activists. Among the speakers and presenters are Minnijean Brown-Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine teens who worked to desegregate Central High School; professional skateboarders Cindy Whitehead and Judi Oyama; Marcia Chatelain, professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University; and Katherine Ott, curator at the National Museum of American History. This year’s Summit will pull from the content and scholarship of the museum’s exhibition “Girlhood (It’s complicated).”

Some 4,000 students are expected to participate in virtual discussions facilitated by their educators, the Smithsonian and Smithsonian Affiliate museums nationwide. Currently, 12 Smithsonian Affiliate museums have registered to host virtual Regional Summits, providing online viewing parties and supplementing the activities with their own programming for students in their local communities.

The National Youth Summit series was designed by the National Museum of American History to provide students with an opportunity to share their views and discuss issues as part of a program that aligns with the National History Standards and Common Core Standards for Speaking and Listening. Since the program was launched in 2011, the National Youth Summit has engaged more than 65,000 live viewers and many more through the archived programs.

The National Youth Summit is made possible by the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation and the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation K–12 Learning Endowment. This project also received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative and is part of a larger Smithsonian initiative focused on civic engagement intended to help Americans understand the past in order to make sense of the present and to shape a more informed future. The museum has created a vigorous program with curricula, websites and outreach opportunities for students and teachers across the U.S.

About Smithsonian Affiliations

Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The long-term goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a two-way relationship among affiliate organizations and the Smithsonian Institution to increase discovery and inspire lifelong learning in communities across America. More information about the Smithsonian Affiliations program and Affiliate activity is available at

About the National Museum of American History

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. The museum, located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th streets, is open Friday through Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Admission is free and passes are not required. The doors of the museum are always open online and the virtual museum continues to expand its offerings, including online exhibitions, K–12 educational materials and programs. The public can follow the museum on social media on TwitterInstagram and Facebook. For more information, go to For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000. 

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Valeska Hilbig

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