Home Our Work Youth Justice Leadership Institute: Building a Movement Youth Justice Leadership Institute - Frequently Asked Questions

Youth Justice Leadership Institute - Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Youth Justice Leadership Institute?

The Institute is a project of the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN). It’s a year-long leadership development program for youth justice reform advocates. Institute fellows participate in distance learning activities from their home locations, attend two virtual or in-person retreats (approximately four-and-a-half days during the work week in October or November and April), and complete an advocacy or organizing project.

2. Who is eligible to participate?

Each participant will be an advocate of color, 18 years of age or older, residing in the 50 United States, DC and PR who has demonstrated a commitment to youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system. Participants may also be family members of system-involved youth and/or someone who has had first-hand experience with the juvenile justice system. 

3. What mentoring will I receive during the Institute?

NJJN will recruit and match you with a primary mentor. Mentors will provide context and support for learning activities; offer strategic advice related to your advocacy project; connect you to current leaders in the field; help relate your work and goals to your specific community and state systems; and give general guidance. 

4. What is required of successful applicants?

The successful applicant in 2021 must:

  • be an advocate of color who may also be a family member, or an adult who has survived the youth justice system
  • be affiliated with an organization serving or advocating for those directly affected by the youth justice system or in a related field;
  • be able to demonstrate involvement in reform activities;
  • have a desire to lead efforts to reform/transform the youth justice system;
  • have demonstrated leadership abilities;
  • reside in the 50 United States, DC or PR;
  • be willing and able to commit to the full year of the Institute and all related activities;
  • be able to devote time to an advocacy project during the course of the Institute year; and
  • have access to basic technology. 

5. Applicants must be “affiliated” with an organization. What does that mean?

This means that you are connected with an organization serving or advocating for those directly affected by the youth justice system, or in a related field. This organization will serve as your “home” during the year, providing in-kind support for your involvement. Although it’s often easiest if the organization is also your employer, it does not have to be.

Examples of in-kind support may include work space, access to technology and office equipment, access to staff or volunteer development resources, and provision of information on reform efforts.

To complete your application, you will need to ask a representative of the affiliating organization to fill out and submit the Organizational Affiliation Form, which is part of the application packet, and can be downloaded from www.njjn.org/our-work/become-a-fellow. The signer of the form may be required to speak with Institute staff before a final invitation to be a fellow is extended to an applicant. This form must be signed by the organization’s Executive Director or CEO. 

6. What is required for the advocacy project?

The advocacy project provides an opportunity for each fellow to utilize the knowledge and skills they attain through the Institute in on-the-ground action. The actual project can take many forms. It can be one in which you are currently engaged or be newly-developed; it can be on a large or small scale, oriented around process (i.e. forming a coalition) or outcome (i.e. passage of legislation), etc. Within the context of the Institute, advocacy is distinct from service provision and program offerings for individual youth or families. The Institute’s emphasis is on efforts that will bring positive systemic changes. All projects, however, must be finished by the close of the Institute’s year-long program. Please keep this in mind as you craft your proposal. You will be supported by staff and mentors to ensure your project is completed.

7. What does my advocacy project proposal have to include?

Your proposal should include the project title, intended goal or outcome, discussion of a media strategy, preliminary identification of allies and adversaries, discussion of community engagement, how the work of the project carries forward after the Institute year, and resources needed.

8. What does the Institute cost?

The registration for the 12-month program is based on a sliding scale. The Institute has a scholarship fund so that lack of funds will never prevent an accepted fellow from participating. Use the following annual salary guide to determine your registration amount:

Annual Income Registration
$0 - $30k $100
$31k - $40k $150
$41k - $50k $225
$51k + $330

There is no application fee. Travel costs are covered by the Institute. 

9. Can I get a scholarship to help pay the tuition?

The Youth Justice Leadership Institute has a generous scholarship policy and will find funds to cover all accepted applicants who need support. 

10. How do I apply?

To apply to the Youth Justice Leadership Institute, please complete the following:

Step 1: Review our frequently asked questions (FAQ). You can also join one of our informational webinars below to learn more about the program.

Informational Webinars: Wednesday, March 10, 2021, at 1:00 PM EST and Monday, April 12, 2021, at 3:00 PM EST

Step 2: Fill out the Contact Information Form so we know how to reach you with updates and announcements. 

Step 3: Download the Organizational Affiliation form and/or the Employer Affirmation.  If you are currently employed by the organization that will act as your organizational affiliate you need not complete the Employer Affirmation form.  Have your Executive Director or CEO complete the Organizational Affiliation form and return it to you.  

If you are not currently employed by an organization serving or advocating for those directly affected by the youth justice system, or in a related field, you must identify a youth-serving organization to act as your affiliate for the program.  Ask the Executive Director/CEO to complete the organizational affiliate form and return it to you.  

Then you must also speak with your current employer about your interest in the fellowship and the time commitment. Have your current employer complete the Employer Affirmation form and return it to you. 

Each of these forms will need to be uploaded with your application. Please allow enough time to have these forms completed and returned to you so you may upload them with your application by the deadline of April 30, 2021, at 11:59 PM EST.

Step 4: Identify two nominators that can speak to your leadership potential and have them submit nomination forms using this online form. Nomination forms must be submitted by Friday, April 30, 2021, at 11:59 PM in order for your application to be considered complete. 

Step 5: Complete the application online using this link by Friday, April 30, 2021 at 11:59 PM. If you require an alternate method to submit your application, please contact Tracey Tucker at tucker@njjn.org.

11. Do I have to work for a member of the National Juvenile Justice Network to apply?


12. Can I self-nominate?

No. You must be nominated by two members of your community who are familiar with your leadership potential, commitment to youth justice system transformation, and ability to successfully complete the program year. 

13. When are applications accepted?

Application materials are made available in early March, with a deadline of April 30, 2021. 

14. Who will be chosen?

The top 10 applicants will be selected to be Institute fellows. 

15. How will the fellows be chosen?

An applicant selection committee, drawn from NJJN members, Institute alum, and NJJN staff, will evaluate all applications that pass an initial screening. They will consider applicants’ prior experience, commitment to youth justice reform, ability to meet the requirements of the Institute curriculum, and potential for long-term success in the movement and success in the Institute. Finalists will also participate in a 30-minute phone interview.

16. Do I have to commit to the entire program year?


17. Will I be paid for my participation in the Institute?

No. We do not provide direct financial support or payment to fellows.

18. Will I have to travel?

You will be expected to participate in the two retreat sessions scheduled during the project year. A determination about location will be made based on current covid-19 restrictions. If it is decided the retreats can be safely held in person, the Institute will cover your travel expenses. 

19. How are travel arrangements made for the in-person sessions?

Travel arrangements are made by Institute staff, based on your preferences. You must provide your preferences in a timely way, so that airfare can be booked no later than 30 days in advance of the trip. If you do not share your travel preferences within this timeframe, your travel will only be partially subsidized. 

20. When does the Institute start?

Activities begin upon acceptance in July. The distance learning portion of the fellowship begins in September.

21. What is required of the fellows?

If selected, you will be required to undertake the following:

  • complete all tasks assigned prior to the first in-person gathering;
  • carry out your advocacy project;
  • fully engage in mentoring relationships;
  • attend both virtual or in-person retreats;
  • engage actively with and be responsive to Institute staff;
  • participate in or complete approximately 80% of all distance learning activities (i.e. teleconferences, webinars, and group check-in calls); and
  • participate in all evaluation activities. 

22. Will I have to take time off from my job?

You will have to arrange to be absent from work in order to attend both of the retreats, a total of approximately eight-and-a-half work days. Depending on the project, your advocacy project might also entail some days out of work. You will likely have to coordinate between your schedule and monthly Institute activities. 

23. When do I need to attend in-person sessions? What other dates should I keep in mind?

Important Dates




March 5, 2021


March 10, 2021


April 12, 2021

Applications released


Informational Webinar (first)


Informational Webinar (second)


April 30, 2021

Application deadline (must include application form, two nomination forms, and organizational affiliation form) at 11:59 PM


June 25, 2021

Final acceptance decisions; offers extended to prospective fellows


July 2, 2021

Deadline for acceptance of offers by prospective fellows

Mid-October/November 2021


First virtual or in-person retreat

April 2022

Second virtual or in-person retreat

Monthly from Sept. 2021-June 2022

Contact between Institute fellows and mentors

Monthly from Sept. 2021-June 2022

Group check-in calls

Monthly from Oct. 2021-June 2022

Distance learning teleconferences/webinars

July 2022

Alumni participation at the annual forum

25. How can I get more information?

The NJJN website has lots of information at www.njjn.org/our-work/youth-justice-leadership- institute-building-a-movement. Also, you can sign up for one of two informational webinars scheduled for March 10, 2021 and April 12, 2021.

26. After visiting the website, who may I speak with if I have more questions?

The Institute Coordinator, Tracey Tucker, is happy to answer your questions. Contact her via email at tucker@njjn.org.

The Youth Justice Leadership Institute is supported by generous grants from the Andrus Family Fund, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and the Tow Foundation.