Skip to content

“This program allowed me to meet amazing people from around the country and explore our mutual love of politics. Researching and writing legislation opened up constructive debate and the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the political process.”
– Isabella Realey, Indiana

What is the High School Student Congress?

The week-long High School Student Congress gathers fifty rising high school seniors together with lawmakers, academics, journalists, and business leaders to learn about the political legacy of Kentucky’s greatest statesman and compromiser, Henry Clay, and how to apply this legacy in every aspect of their academic and professional activities. Carefully-chosen guest speakers engage with the students throughout the week, and students participate in an intensive curriculum and political exercise designed by the Henry Clay Center staff and our academic partners at Transylvania University.

Each year’s program invites students to focus on a different dimension of politics and public policy, informed by the experiences of Henry Clay. Previous years have focused on Henry Clay as a legislator and Speaker of the House, during which students authored, debated and voted on pieces of original legislation, and on Henry Clay as a diplomat and Secretary of State, during which students participated in an international conflict negotiation simulation. No matter the theme of the program, students will be challenged to interact with peers who hold different beliefs than they do, to civilly and openly engage in dialogue about their differences, to learn to listen to one another and, ultimately, to come together in a spirit of cooperation in order to achieve progress for the common good. Throughout this process, students will be developing and honing their leadership, communication, negotiation and interpersonal skills.

In addition to the rigorous academic program, students will have opportunities to participate in team-building, leadership and social activities that create friendship and lasting bonds among the cohort of students. Previous activities have included visits to Henry Clay’s Ashland Estate, the Kentucky Horse Park, the Kentucky State Capitol and the national headquarters of the Council of State Governments, as well as film viewings, scavenger hunts and special closing banquets.

Click Here to Download An Information Sheet


When and Where is the High School Student Congress?

The High School Student Congress will take place June 10-15, 2019* The program is hosted on the historic campus of Transylvania University, where students will have the opportunity to stay in a dormitory, attend lectures in college classrooms and utilize campus facilities.

*These dates may be subject to change


Who Should Apply?

The High School Student Congress will accept fifty exceptional rising high school seniors (juniors in the 2018-2019 school year) through a competitive application process. Applicants both from Kentucky and across the nation are welcome to apply, as previous years’ attendees have represented nearly every state in the US. Qualities of successful applicants include:

  • Record of academic excellence, as exemplified by GPA and standardized test scores
  • Participation in relevant coursework, such as AP Government, Economics and History
  • Interest in pursuing public service
  • Commitment to service and leadership
  • Dedication to learning and participation, and ability to interact well with peers, as exemplified by required teacher recommendation
  • Demonstration of excellent writing skill, as exemplified in required application essays

Alumni cite the High School Student Congress as a defining experience in their high school careers, encouraging many to pursue paths of leadership and service. Our alumni describe their experience best in their own words:


“This week changed my life. I have a newfound passion for debate and policy that I never expected. I also made a wonderful group of close friends (and someday, colleagues) whom I love dearly and bonded with immediately.”


“The other students taught me the most, because I have never been able to fully state my opinions before, and they allowed me to do so. They made me realize my opinions matter.”


“This program really taught me that the legislative process is more than just politics, and the spirit of compromise is vital in moving our country forward.”



What is the Cost?

There is no cost to apply for or attend the High School Student Congress. The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship covers all program-associated costs including the following: meals, accommodations, program activities and travel. We believe that every student, regardless of background or circumstance, should have an equal opportunity to participate in our program. Thanks to our generous supporters and sponsors, we are able to provide full scholarships to all students.

Click Here to Download Application



For further questions about the Student Congresses, please email Clare Magee, Director of Academic Programs, at


Check Out Photos From Previous Student Congresses