Hey high school sophomores and juniors: what are you doing this summer? If the idea of living in NYC, learning about social change, and making a difference sounds like an ideal way to spend your break, then consider JustCity: A Fellowship for Jewish Social Entrepreneurship.

Created by the Jewish Theological Seminary in partnership with AVODAH, USY, and the National Ramah Commission, JustCity is a brand-spanking new pre-college summer program that offers the opportunity to deepen Jewish learning, live on a college campus, strengthen leadership skills, learn from change-makers in every field, and be a hands-on part of advancing service and social justice.

JustCity’s Director, Aliyah Vinikoor, filled us in about this innovative and exciting summer opportunity. Find out more, and learn how to apply (before May 1) below!

How did the JustCity program come about?
Tikkun Olam is really woven into JTS’ mission as a school. We already have a Fellowship in Jewish social entrepreneurship, which is a year long intensive program for students who want to develop the skills they need to go into Jewish service and leadership. That’s a program that helps our students cultivate a connection between social action and Jewish identity. More recently we realized that high schoolers are also participating in this work, and have a desire to put their passion for Jewish social justice into action – but don’t necessarily have a forum to develop leadership and organizing skills. We developed JustCity as a pre-college summer program to provide that.

What are the what/when/where/why/who specifics of the program?
The program will run for the month of July, and is meant for Jewish high school students going into their junior or senior years. They will live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and get a good sense of college life. In the mornings they’ll take a text-based course on social action. These classes will be taught by leaders in the social justice field, and will lay the ground work for the work they do later in the day. In the afternoon they’ll volunteer for organizations that do environmental work, community organizing, work with the elderly, work with kids, and work in many other fields.

What about social time and down time?
For our launch year, which is this year, we’re hoping to have a small cohort of 25-50 participants, so that we can really build community. In the evenings a couple times a week they will have a formal dinner with a JTS professor or a leader in the Jewish social justice community. There will also be field trips, fun excursions like going to a Mets game or going fishing in Central Park, networking opportunities, and a lot of free time for them to just explore the city independently. We’ll also offer a college prep component with skills based classes in how to write an essay or resume, how to put together a portfolio or start a job search.

How can people apply?
Applications are up online right now. The deadline is technically May 1, but we’re accepting students on a rolling basis. I’ve been getting a lot of calls and emails from interested students, so there’s a lot of momentum – we’re really excited to see where the first cohort goes!