Monday – Friday, July 8-12, 2024 | 10:00 am – 3:00 pm ET

Bard High School Early College Manhattan

525 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002


PEN America’s summer 2024 Free Expression Advocacy Institute in New York City is an intensive, in-person, week-long, educational and training program where high school students can learn the theories, laws, histories, and methodologies behind free expression advocacy. Our program includes presentations led by expert legal and policy practitioners from PEN America, interactive workshops designed to teach tangible skills, and TA-facilitated discussion sessions and activities to dive deeper into the issues with their peers. Participants cap their experiences by simulating advocacy campaign projects over the course of the Institute to present in the final closing session of the program. Students who successfully complete the program and attend all sessions will be granted a certificate of professional achievement in free expression advocacy from PEN America. This program is FREE and available to all high school students. Full attendance is required to receive a certificate. 

This program is now at capacity! Due to popular demand, we are now opening up a waitlist for the New York City institute. If you would like to join the waitlist, please go ahead and fill out the form below. Admitted students who do not confirm by June 1st will forfeit their spot, opening up spaces for those on the waitlist. Please note that our DC program still has capacity and students are encouraged to consider applying for that program, given they can cover their lodging and travel costs. PEN America CANNOT provide travel and lodging for students attending from outside the hosting city. If you have any questions, please email [email protected].





Topics Covered in Our Program: 

The First Amendment and its Limitations, Counter-Speech and Combating Hate, Freedom of the Press and the Local News Crisis, Media Literacy and Free Speech Online, Protest Rights and the Freedom of Assembly, Academic Freedom and Free Speech in Schools, Artistic Freedom Around the World, Pro Tips for Advocacy Campaigning, Free Speech and Mass Incarceration, Prisoners of Conscience Around the World, and more!


Advocacy Campaign Projects

Over the course of the Institute, students will be working in small groups to develop an advocacy campaign for a free expression issue of their choice. The issue can either be focused domestically in the United States or internationally. At the end of the program, students will present their advocacy campaigns to be assessed by a panel of PEN America staff. Students will have time during Institute sessions to work on and ask questions about their projects.

Photos and Testimonials from Graduates

"I've gotten more insight into how to organize and engage in protests, and even got some hands-on experience!"
"Learning from all the different people from different walks of life really made free expression rights become more real." Pictured: Ugandan filmmaker Achiro P. Olwoch
"I learned that there's a community within PEN America that's ready to support free speech and free expression, and that I can rely on PEN to support me ." Pictured: Visit to the Hannah Traore Gallery.
"I've learned that advocacy is an everyday thing... [and] that a little bit of research and self-information goes a long way." Pictured: Free speech activist Mary Beth Tinker.

PEN America Staff




headshot of Kristen Shahverdian

Program Manager, Free Expression and Education




headshot of Nicholas Perez

Program Manager, Free Expression and Education




Peris Tushabe headshot

Program Assistant, Free Expression and Education




Special Guests




Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to register?
The program is open to students in any year of high school including recent high school graduates.

Who should consider applying?
This Institute is also highly recommended for students pursuing academic and professional careers in activism, communications, humanities, journalism, and philosophy among other related subjects.

Do I have to attend all sessions?
Full attendance, participation, and project completion are required to receive a certificate of professional achievement from PEN America.

Can I participate virtually?
No. Students must be available to attend all meeting sessions in person.

How will I know if I’ve been admitted?
Once you submit your application for admission, you will receive an email confirmation with a copy of your form responses. On a rolling basis, we will reach out to admitted applicants with the next steps for enrolment.

How much does the program cost?
There is no cost to attend this program, however we welcome donations between $100 and $200 to help support costs for facilities, food, and special guest honoraria.

Will I receive any school credit for the Institute?
Neither high school nor college credit will be granted for completing the Institute unless otherwise determined by a sponsoring institution. PEN America will, however, award each student a certificate of professional achievement in free expression advocacy upon completion of the course and the program offers excellent preparation and a relevant credential for future internships and work opportunities in policy and advocacy. 

Will there be any homework assigned?
Background readings may be assigned that students are expected to complete before the start of each session. Throughout the program, students may be expected to work outside of instructional hours on research projects and assignments.

Who are the instructors?
The Institute administration is managed by Nicholas “Niko” Perez and Peris Tushabe from PEN America’s Free Expression and Education program. The weekly schedule includes presentations and workshops from a range of experts and professionals across PEN America’s staff, membership, and network, including well-known researchers, advocates, and authors.


If you have any other questions, please email us at [email protected].