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.

Free Webinar

Navigating the National Student Leadership Congress Application Process

We hosted an unmissable webinar for the dedicated staff of TRIO Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science, and Talent Search programs! Dive into an insightful session where we unravel the intricacies of NSLC, share insider tips on the application process, and guide you through potential funding resources.

Watch the webinar here


COE invites applications for the 35th NSLC at American University in Washington, D.C., June 8-13, 2024

The Council for Opportunity in Education is thrilled to announce the 35th annual National Student Leadership Congress (NSLC) in the summer of 2024. This transformative leadership experience will bring together 170 high school students who are part of the TRIO programs, including TRIO Upward Bound, TRIO Upward Bound Math-Science, and TRIO Talent Search, from all across the United States and its territories. They will be part of a 6-day leadership program held in Washington, D.C. During the Leadership Congress, students will stay, study, and eat on the campus of American University. The event will feature exciting activities, such as a Mock Congress, opportunities for exploring college and career options, visits to famous landmarks and museums in Washington, D.C., and meetings with their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill. Students must apply before Tuesday, January 16, 2024, by 5:00 p.m. ET. The registration fee is $1,700 per student upon acceptance, and this fee covers lodging, meals, educational materials, and cultural experiences.


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.

Get more information here.

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.

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.


Get in Touch

Questions? Contact Director of Student Opportunities 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.
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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.”
Read More

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.
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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 high school and undergraduate students and recent TRIO 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, Upward Bound Math-Science 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 campus of American University.  In addition to meeting their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill, delegates participate in community service projects, conflict resolution workshops, and spend much of the program engaged in a Mock Congress. This requires students to research critical policy issues, draft legislation, and debate their peers with their assigned team.

A paid internship opportunity lasting four to six months is 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.

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.

COE’s TRIO Career Development Program (TCDP) provides TRIO SSS and McNair students with access to competitive paid internships and jobs. TCDP builds professional skills, supports development through mentoring, provides connections to careers with top employers, and helps maximize their work experience. Students receive personalized mentoring and tools to develop and execute their career plans. After building valuable relationships, these students will be prepared to compete for highly sought-after positions with various public and private sector partners.

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Student Opportunities

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