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The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship imparts the skills of public dialogue and leadership to bring about change in an increasingly polarizing environment. The flagship endeavor gathers exceptional high school and college students from every region to engage in Student Congresses where next-generation leaders and public servants learn the lost art of negotiation, goodwill, and compromise.

“This program allowed me to meet amazing people from around the country and explore our mutual love of politics. Researching and writing legislation opened up constructive debate and the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the political process.”
– Isabella Realey, Indiana

Applications for the 2018 High School Student Congress are now closed.


What is the Student Congress?

The week-long Student Congresses gather fifty college or high school students together with lawmakers, academics, journalists, and business leaders to discuss the importance of applying the art of compromise in every aspect of their activities. Carefully-chosen guest speakers engage with the students throughout the week, and students participate in an intensive curriculum designed by the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration and by Dr. Michael Cairo and his team at Transylvania University. Specific information about the High School and College Student Congresses may be found below.

College Student Congress

The College Student Congress will take place from May 15th to May 20th, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. Fifty of the nation’s brightest college juniors will be selected to attend, one representative from each state. The program is hosted at the University of Kentucky, and all expenses, including transportation and housing, are paid. Students will participate in the development and negotiation of bipartisan policy solutions for relevant issues facing the country today, as well as have the opportunity to engage with a variety of guest speakers that include elected officials, academics, journalists, business leaders, members of the judiciary, and others. Students will also benefit from a visit to the national headquarters of the Council for State Governments, a tour of Henry Clay’s Ashland Estate, and various dinners and receptions throughout the week.

For the second year in a row, college students will be offered the opportunity to apply for an additional week of programming in Washington, DC from May 21st to May 25th, 2018. Selected students will travel from Lexington to Washington, DC at the conclusion of the first week, transitioning from engaging with policy in theory to policy in practice. In 2017, students visited the National Governor’s Association, Congressional Budget Office, and Bipartisan Policy Center, and met with the Supreme Court Clerk and K Street Lobbyists. Students also attended the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship’s Bourbon Barrel of Compromise event, toured the Senate floor, and enjoyed a dinner at the Congressional Country Club. As with the College Student Congress in Lexington, the additional program in Washington, DC is free to students, who will be housed at Marymount University.

Internship Opportunities

In addition to the DC experience, students will have the opportunity to participate in a summer internship in the Washington, DC area. Through a competitive selection process, at least 5 students will be selected for summer internships in either government or private sector positions.

The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship will facilitate the placement of interns and will assist with related logistics, but selected students will be responsible for participating in the internship at their expense.

Application Process

Current college juniors (rising seniors at the time of attendance) may apply for the College Student Congress online. Applications are due by February 16, 2018, or until all states are represented. Required application materials include:

  • A completed application form
  • A statement of interest
  • A copy of most recent college transcript
  • A copy of resume

Following the application deadline, the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship will work with elected officials in each state to process applications, culminating in the selection of one student representative and two alternates by the senior US Senator from each state.


*To view the college application click here*

High School Student Congress

The High School Student Congress will take place from June 11th to June 16th, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. Fifty high school juniors will be selected from a competitive application process to attend the program hosted on the campus of Transylvania University. All expenses are paid. Throughout the week, students will engage in a rigorous curriculum designed to explore the different components of the policy-making process, all the while developing leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills. Students will engage in a project associated with the week’s theme, as well as have the opportunity to hear from a variety of guest speakers. Students will also enjoy a day at the national headquarters of the Council for State Governments, a tour of Henry Clay’s Ashland Estate, and participate in dinners and extracurricular activities that supplement the academic experience.

Application Process

Current high school juniors (rising seniors at the time of attendance) may apply for the High School Student Congress online. Applications are due by February 16, 2018. Required application materials include:

  • A completed application form
  • Two short application essays (250 words each)
  • A copy of latest high school transcript
  • Standardized test scores
  • A teacher recommendation

Following the application deadline and review of applications, fifty students will be selected to attend, and alternates will be notified.

*To view the high school application click here*


Why Apply?

Alumni cite the Student Congress as transformative in their outlook, setting many on paths of leadership and service.  After less than a decade, many have gone on to successful careers as staffers in the United States Senate and House, state government, and in private sector positions at law firms, NGO’s and leading US corporations.  In addition to a tremendous alumni network, the Student Congress allows attendees to:

  • Develop lasting bonds with best and brightest aspiring leaders from across the country.
  • Hone your speaking, writing and negotiation skills.
  • Build your leadership abilities.
  • Bolster your credentials for College and Graduate School.



What is the Cost?

There is NO cost. The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship covers all costs for students to participate: meals, accommodations, costs associated with other activities, and travel for those traveling by plane. Students will be housed in a residence hall with residential supervision provided by resident advisors.


For questions about the Student Congresses, please email Clare Magee, Director of Academic Programs, at 

 “A different perspective, a melding of ideas…Learning that at a young age before graduating college was really inspirational, and something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.”
– Karly Moen, North Dakota