The American Civil Liberties Union hosted its annual Summer Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. for rising junior and senior high school students that gave students the tools they need to engage in their communities on issues around civil liberties and civil rights.

Saheli Thakkar of Amador Valley High School joined almost 1,000 students from every state in the country for the opportunity to receive first-hand experience from lawyers, lobbyists, community activists, and other experts dedicated to defending these constitutional rights.

From July 20-26, participating students engaged with lawyers and political activists to build expertise and knowledge in advocacy – including issues such as criminal justice reform, voting rights, and religious freedom, participate in debates, and develop successful media and social networking strategies, all while observing policy development on Capitol Hill.

The week culminated with a lobby day on July 25 where students will participate in meetings with elected officials and/or congressional staff on Capitol Hill to bring attention to the cruel and inhumane conditions immigrant families are held in at the border, as well as the threat posed by law enforcement officers overreaching by using facial recognition technology. The day concluded with a large rally at the Capitol.

This October, the ACLU will also launch the first California Advocacy Institute in Los Angeles, a four-day social justice and civil liberties training for high school students in the state. Applications are now open for California students.