The Social Justice Leadership Academy (SJLA) is an immersive five-week summer leadership training for youth ages 12-21, based on the principles of social justice and youth-led change. SJLA begins with our belief that entire communities thrive when young people are given real opportunities to develop their voices and visions for change.  

Over the course of five weeks, we…
• Collaborate to explore and express our ideas, working with professional artists to create music, film, radio, poetry, theater, dance, visual art, fashion, and more.
• Identify the key issues impacting our communities, gain tools for political analysis, learn about strategies for making change, and develop our own leadership skills.
• Connect with inspiring people and organizations throughout the Hudson Valley, the Capital Region, and NYC, building our networks within and beyond Hudson.
• Develop meaningful and long-lasting relationships of trust and mutual support
• Prepare and share daily meals, celebrating food as a tool for building community
• Provide professional development training to Youth Fellows, including communication skills, time management, etc.

This summer's program partners included: Wildseed, a Black- and Brown-led community and farm in Millerton, NY; Hudson Muslim Youth, created by and for Muslim Youth in Hudson; Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, a multicultural organization providing support and protection to immigrants; Youth FX, a youth filmmaking group in Albany, NY; Left in Focus, a Hudson-based photography organization; Found Sound Nation, a collective of musicians and music-producers; Wild Gather, a Hudson-based collective of healing justice educators and herbalists; Barbershop Talks Radio, an SBK radio show broadcast on WGXC: 90.7-FM; Basilica Hudson, a multidisciplinary arts center;  Brotherhood Sister Sol, a youth organization in New York, NY.



Throughout the summer we use art to express and explore ideas, to ask questions, to reflect, to share, and to transform ourselves and each other. We collaborate with professional music producers, photographers, media-makers and poets to write and record songs, shoot photography projects, conduct interviews, produce radio for broadcast, write and perform poetry, choreograph dances, and to create jewelry and fashion. These tools support youth in taking control of their own narratives: sharing and reflecting on their own experiences, and telling their own stories of struggle, strength and resilience.



SJLA is a safe and supportive environment for young people to develop the skills and confidence to step up as leaders in their communities. Throughout the summer, we practice writing speeches and speaking publicly, leading workshops and activities, and heading out into the world together. We learn about the various roles that people play in building movements, and consider each of our own strengths, skills and passions. At the end of the summer we plan and host an epic public event for our families and neighbors. Youth Fellows receive additional professional development support, including trainings and workshops in communication, resume-writing, time management, mapping our futures, and self-care.



The relationships we develop during SJLA are long-lasting: together we build a culture and community of openness and acceptance, trust and mutual support.  Every week we also connect with inspiring organizers, activists and artists in our city and beyond:wWe travel to meet other youth groups in the Hudson Valley, Albany, and New York City, sharing our songs and projects, learning about other youth organizing efforts and media projects, and building relationships for future collaborations. 



Through hands-on workshops and conversations, we develop our critical awareness and understanding of systems of power, privilege, and oppression. Together we think about at how race, class, gender and power contribute to inequities in our lives and communities. We learn about mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline, food access and insecurity, gender and sexuality, and educational injustice. And we learn about historic movements for liberation, inspiring youth organizing efforts, and social movements taking place today. Together we develop our vision for making our own community a more healthy, just place.


Would you sponsor a teen to participate in this transformative summer leadership program?

The Social Justice Leadership Academy directly serves 25 teenagers. Each summer provide meaningful employment and job training to 10-12 Teen Fellows (ages 16-19) to help facilitate and run the program, and to serve as mentors to their younger peers. 15 Teen Participants (ages 13-15) participate in the program free of charge. 

By employing teen staff and providing the program free of charge, we make participate possible for youth from low-income families. 

Your contribution gives a teenager in Hudson the opportunity to have an inspiring, thought-provoking, and empowering summer, and to build long-lasting relationships of trust and support.