National Student Leadership Congress

COE hosts the National Student Leadership Congress, where TRIO pre-college students from across the United States and U.S. territories gather in Washington, D.C., to find innovative solutions to today’s societal issues.

Applications Now Open

34th Annual National Student Leadership Conference at American University in Washington, D.C., June 10-15

The Council for Opportunity in Education invites applications for the 34th annual National Student Leadership Congress (NSLC). TRIO pre-college youth from across the United States and U. S. territories gather in Washington, D.C. to work together to find innovative solutions to today’s societal issues. NSLC is an intensive six-day leadership experience hosted on the campus of American University. Highlights of the event include a Mock Congress competition, diversity and inclusion training, interactive learning labs, college and career exploration, Washington, D.C. landmarks and museum tours, and a day on Capitol Hill! Students must apply before midnight ET on Wednesday, March 1Student registration cost is $1,600 per student upon acceptance and includes lodging, meals, curriculum, and cultural experiences. 

Free Webinar

How NSLC Gives Students a Once-in-a-Lifetime Leadership Opportunity

February 15, 2023,

This free webinar for TRIO staff introduces you to COE’s National Student Leadership Congress, explains why your students should participate, and teaches you how to help your students apply.
Get more info & Register

About the Leadership Congress

Establishing a national network of emerging leaders

COE encourages outstanding students from the high school graduating classes of 2024 and 2025 to apply and serve as a representative for the 2023 National Student Leadership Congress (NSLC). Students can expect a rigorous program with a full schedule that will challenge them and provide an intensive learning experience. Selected students must attend for the entirety of the program, which takes place June 10–15. This program is for new applicants only. Students who have participated in NSLC previously are ineligible to reapply.


Application Process

Complete the Student Application and submit supporting materials before midnight ET on Wednesday, March 1.

NSLC is open to TRIO Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math-Science participants who will graduate in either the classe of 2024 or 2025. COE will notify all students of their acceptance status before Thursday, March 30. Upon notification of student acceptance, the nominating TRIO project director will receive an invoice in the amount of $1600.00 per student and the payment for the invoice is due upon receipt. Important note: NSLC student registration is an allowable project expense.

Once accepted, students will receive a checklist of items they will need for the event. If you have additional questions, please contact Angela Holley at [email protected].


NSLC is open to TRIO Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math-Science students graduating in either the class of 2024 or 2025. This program is only for new participants.

The registration fee is $ 1,600. This price includes lodging, meals, curriculum, and cultural experiences.

The cancellation policy states that students wishing to withdraw from the NSLC Program after acceptance must notify COE in writing by emailing [email protected] COE will refund the uncommitted portion of the registration fee (recoverable housing, meal, instructional fees) minus a $250 handling fee. COE will not grant refunds after May 1.

Following the American University Covid-19 policy, COE will require proof of vaccination (including Covid-19 boosters) for students selected to participate in NSLC. Upon selection, COE will notify students of the process for submitting proof of vaccination before the May 1 deadline. Please note that University, local, or state mandates may modify these Covid-19 protocols. In accordance with the aforementioned policies, masks are optional in most campus locations. If a member of our community asks others to mask when in close contact with one another, please respect these requests.

Counselor Application

The counselor’s role is crucial to the student’s experience and the success of the program.

Counselors will guide 10-15 students each through an intensive in-person six-day leadership experience for first-generation high school students. The counselor’s role is crucial to the student’s experience and the program’s success. Successful applicants will travel to Washington, D.C., and take part in facilitating a transformational experience for pre-college TRIO students from across the United States and U.S. Territories. NSLC counselors play a crucial role in assisting students as they work collectively to find innovative solutions to today’s societal issues. COE prefers current or former full-time or part-time TRIO staff, TRIO alumni, and former NSLC staff with experience working with pre-college students and summer residential programs. Since counselors work with minors, COE will conduct a background check.

Additional counselor duties include:

  • Attending and partaking in daily staff debriefings,
  • Facilitating group sessions for the Simulated Congress Challenge,
  • Assisting with program logistics and evaluation,
  • Managing emergencies,
  • Helping students with technology as necessary, and
  • Keeping students abreast of the schedule.
Additional Information

Experience working with high-school-aged students. Ability to clearly and effectively communicate and work with NSLC students and staff. Involvement in coordinating student programming. Must be able to attend the required online training sessions. Must participate in the in-person training and orientation scheduled for June 6-9. Must commit to fully participating in student programming, June 10-15. Approval from a direct supervisor to participate. Current certification in First Aid and CPR or willingness to acquire certification during staff training is a plus.

Assist in the direction, supervision, and organization of students in the residence halls, within activities, and throughout the event to meet the intended student outcomes. Apply basic youth development principles in working with campers through communication, relationship development, respect for diversity, involvement, and youth empowerment. Maintain 24-hour supervision of students, coordinating with the lead counselor and COE staff, including residing/sleeping in the residence halls. Be aware of and implement safety guidelines discussed in training and outlined in the Camp Counselor Handbook. Use approved methods for facilitating the resolution of problems and conflicts. Keep the lead counselor informed of all behavioral issues and consult with them for assistance. Participate in daily staff meetings and debriefings. Assist with student registration, airport transfers, and other ground transportation needs. Participate in implementing program activities within the NSLC mission and goals. Lead or assist with all activities; initiate impromptu activities to fill schedule openings. Actively participate in all activities with your group. Accompany students on all excursions, which may involve extensive walking and fluctuating weather conditions. Ensure the progression of activities based on individual and group abilities. Oversee the use, maintenance, and return of all equipment in your group’s possession. Be a role model to students and staff in your attitude and behavior. Follow and uphold all safety and security rules and procedures. Act as a positive role model for students. Participate enthusiastically in all NSLC activities.

COE will cover all travel expenses to and from Washington, D.C. COE will provide room and board in the dormitories at American University and all admission fees, local transportation, and off-campus meals. Additionally, COE will stipend $500.00 to counselors who complete the program.

Get in Touch

Questions? Contact Director of Student Development Services Angela L. Holley.

Angela L. Holley

Director, Student Development Services [email protected]

Justis Lopez

South Carolina State Representative and TRIO Alumnus Kambrell Garvin Reflects on the National Student Leadership Congress

I want to encourage all the young folks listening to this message today to get involved. It is never too early to start giving back to your school community, local community, state, and nation. We have an opportunity to do some good work. I started as a 6th grader. I was a middle school student, and I ran for my first position as the homeroom representative, and that was my first opportunity to talk to my peers and share why I wanted to be involved. All these years later, those same experiences still translate into my vital work as a member of the General Assembly. I also want to tell young people that their age should never dictate their contribution. Just because you are young or cannot vote yet does not mean you cannot be a part of the solutions to making our world a better place.
Read More
Trinity Thorpe-Lubneuski

Transforming Lives and Helping End Intergenerational Poverty

“I was 15, in Upward Bound, and attending the COE National Student Leadership Congress in D.C. During my first time on Capitol Hill, I met COE leaders and learned about advocacy from others doing this daily. It was inspiring! That’s when I started to develop an interest in research and policy. When I was in college at Pepperdine University, COE asked me to share my story in a legislative briefing. [TRIO programs] were up for reauthorization, seeking additional funding, and there were some proposed budget cuts. I could travel from California to Washington, D.C., to speak.”
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Students Grow from Attending the National Student Leadership Congress, but So Do Their Mentors

Sydnie Romero, a former TRIO student and current Upward Bound instructor at her alma mater, the Homestead campus of Miami Dade College said, “Seeing the diversity was a joy in itself, and I would encourage other professionals to be a part of that.” Romero said that she especially enjoyed seeing student leadership growth and how students felt freed from their roles at home. “Introverts became extroverts,” she said of the students. She recalled one young man from Montana who said he didn’t think that at home he could be so relaxed and as much himself as he was at the NSLC, to which a new friend from New Jersey spoke up and encouraged him to give it a try once he got home.
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National Student Leadership Congress 2021 Participants Reflect on a Virtual Program, Receive Laptops as Gift from Comcast Internet Essentials

Over 200 TRIO pre-college students participated in COE’s first-ever virtual 32nd annual National Student Leadership Congress in 2021. The year’s theme was the Challenge of Change. Students participated in workshops and alumni panels and took virtual tours of Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the Kennedy Center. State team leaders chaperoned participants during virtual Hill meetings with Members of Congress. State team leaders connected students to over a dozen selective colleges during a virtual college fair. Comcast Internet Essentials gifted each student on the team that won the simulated Congress challenge with a laptop to commend this year’s participants.
Read More

30th Annual National Student Leadership Congress and What Students Need to Succeed

On the last day, students participated in a Mock Congress for which they researched, wrote, and then debated a bill of legislation on a given topic. Some of the issues included: whether vaccinations should be a federal mandate, whether there should be a national gun registry, should the United States pay reparations to the descendants of the African slave trade, and whether adolescents should receive life sentences without parole. The winning team submitted a bill on whether the District of Columbia should receive statehood — they took the position that it should not. As a reward for their winning bill, each team member received a laptop — generously donated by Internet Essentials by Comcast.
Read More


COE will invite applications for these additional opportunities soon.

COE has seasonal student opportunities for TRIO students and recent graduates. Get notified when COE seeks future cohorts for the opportunities below.


Each summer, COE hosts more than 150 TRIO high school student delegates from Upward Bound and Talent Search programs across the United States and territories to participate in a rigorous 6-day leadership experience in Washington, D.C. During the Leadership Congress, the delegates sleep, study and dine on the Georgetown University campus. In addition to meeting their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill, delegates engage in conflict resolution workshops, diversity training, and spend much of the program researching a critical and controversial current policy issue, drafting legislation, and then arguing their position on this question.

Beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year, a paid internship of four to six months will be awarded each year to a graduating senior or recent college graduate who has participated in a federal TRIO program. The program includes an internship in a Congressional office preceded by several weeks in COE’s Washington, DC office. The internship is named for the late Thomas R. Wolanin, former staff director of the Subcommittee on Post-Secondary Education in the U.S. House of Representatives, a champion of access and affordability in postsecondary education, and a committed advocate for first-generation students.

Increasingly, developing global competencies are a critical component of what it means to be a college graduate. Students entering the global workforce must be able to cross borders and cultures with ease. But formative experiences such as study, travel and internships abroad remain largely the province of middle- and upper-income students. The Keith Sherin Global Leaders Program was founded with the notion that all college students should have access to international experiences. The program supports the study of TRIO college students with demonstrated leadership skills in a three-to four-week program. Since 2000, more than 350 low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities have participated in COE-sponsored short-term and semester study abroad programs in Great Britain, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain.

Through the Keith Sherin Global Leaders Washington Semester Program, one high-achieving TRIO college student is selected each semester and supported with tuition, housing and a small living stipend. The Washington, D.C. public policy program includes a semester of study at Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center and an internship placement in a Congressional office. The program recruits students with strong academic records who can juggle a full course load on top of a three-day-per-week job. Interns see public policy in the making and gain valuable work skills and connections.

The pitch competition offers students an opportunity to develop a brief competitive presentation to propose their business ideas to an audience and a panel of judges. Contestants will have an opportunity to win up to $2,500 in scholarships and prizes. The virtual pitch competition is exclusively for active TRIO participants.

Learn More

Student Opportunities

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Learn more about how the Council for Opportunity in Education works in conjunction with colleges, universities, and agencies to help low-income students enter college and graduate.