CivicAction Maple Pageblock with Video

CivicAction students... 

  • Serve communities in need
  • Learn about some of the nation’s most pressing social problems and most promising solutions
  • Practice communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills
  • Earn service-learning credit hours
  • Discover ways to become more active leaders and citizens in their schools and communities


Program Schedule

Friday, November 1

7:45 – 8:00 am            Registration at Gower Middle School

Students receive their group assignments and a final itinerary. Civic Education Project staff are available to address any last minute questions.

8:00 – 9:00 am            Orientation

Students receive an orientation to the program philosophy, structure, rules and expectations, and participate in introductory teambuilding activities within their small groups.

9:00 – 10:00 am          Travel to Chicago (via School Bus)

10:00 – 5:00 pm          Service Project (with Lunch Break & Travel)

Each group visits a nonprofit organization that is addressing issues of urban poverty, often a homeless shelter, community center, or meal program. Students typically receive an orientation and tour from the volunteer coordinator, and then help complete a variety of hands-on service projects. Students might prepare and serve a meal, sort donations, lead recreational activities, or work on gardening or maintenance projects. After service, staff lead students in reflection activities on their experience before traveling back to the program site as a group.

5:00 – 6:30 pm            Dinner 

6:30 – 8:30 pm            Faces of Homelessness Panel

The entire group participates in a panel discussion in which individuals who have experienced homelessness share their personal stories. Afterwards, staff facilitate student questions for panelists and then lead students in small group reflection activities.

8:30 – 10:00 pm          Recreation & Down Time

Students may participate in games and recreational activities or take downtime to relax and socialize before getting ready for bed.

10:30 pm                    Lights Out

Saturday, November 2

7:00 – 9:00 am            Wake Up & Breakfast

Students get ready for the day and eat breakfast before departing for service.

9:00 am – 2:00 pm    Service Project (with Lunch Break & Travel)

Each group visits a different nonprofit organization that is addressing issues of urban poverty, often a youth center, senior center, or urban farm. Students might help design and facilitate arts and recreational activities, work on gardening or maintenance projects, or pack and distribute groceries to community members. After service, staff lead students in reflection activities on their experience before traveling back to the program site as a group.

2:00 – 4:00 pm            Youth Leadership Workshop & Closing

Students participate in a youth leadership workshop that highlights ways individuals are addressing social issues and ways young people can make an impact on issues they care about. Following the workshop, staff facilitate individual and small group reflection activities designed to help students identify ways they can become more active in their schools and communities. The program concludes with a final closing activity and send off.

4:00 – 5:00 pm            Travel to Gower Middle School (via School Bus)

5:00 – 5:15 pm            Check Out & Student Pick Up at Gower Middle School

What to Expect

Each day centers around what students call the most eye-opening element of the program: meaningful service. Projects range from serving a meal at a soup kitchen, to reading to children at a day care center, to working on an urban farm. Students contribute to the work of local nonprofit organizations while learning from clients, staff and community members.

Through examining complex social problems and engaging in dialogue with peers and leaders, students sharpen communication and critical thinking skills and gain a broader perspective on the world.

Community Living
Students and staff live in retreat-style housing in the heart of downtown Chicago. A campus or community center becomes their “home away from home.” Sharing meals helps to establish a tight-knit community, and traveling via public transit offers a unique way to explore the city. This program is typically housed at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Students sleep retreat-style in the rec center or other common space on campus – they bring their own sleeping bags and pillows, are separated by gender, and are supervised by residential staff.

Team Building & Fun
CivicAction brings together diverse, like-minded peers from throughout the region. Through facilitated teambuilding activities, students build strong and lasting friendships and develop interpersonal and leadership skills. The program includes opportunities for downtime to unwind and socialize, and of course, a whole lot of laughter and fun!

Service Hours
Participants earn 16 hours of service-learning credit (including 8 hours of direct service) towards school or extracurricular requirements. Following the program, each student receives a certificate documenting completion of the program and the service-learning hours awarded.

Safety & Conduct

The safety of program participants is paramount at all times. We take careful steps to ensure the well-being of our students, including:

Hiring Experienced Staff Members
Our staff is a talented group of educators brought together by their commitment to teaching highly able young people about civic engagement and social responsibility. The lead staff member on each program is typically a high school teacher or other education or youth development professional with expertise in service-learning. The assistant staff members on each program are typically college graduates working in the education or nonprofit fields, graduate students or exceptional senior-level undergraduates. All staff are selected through a highly competitive process that weighs such factors as academic background, service-learning experience and experience working with youth in a residential setting. The process also includes a criminal background check. Alumni consistently report that one of the best aspects of the program is the quality of the staff teams.

Working with Established & Well-Respected Host Agencies 
We work closely with host organizations to provide safe volunteer and learning environments. Host agencies orient students to the communities and activities they will be engaged in and outline precautions students can take to minimize risk and help ensure the safety and well-being of all group members.

Providing Careful Supervision 
While students are ultimately responsible for their own conduct, our trained staff teams provide clear guidelines and careful supervision. Our programs maintain small class or group sizes of 12 to 18 students, and offer a high staff to student ratio of at least one staff member for every six students. 

Requiring a High Standard of Student Conduct 
Our programs are highly structured and operate with a strict set of rules regarding appropriate boundaries and staff supervision. These rules help to ensure the well-being of our students and staff, and all students who attend must be committed to respecting them. Students and families are asked to review our Honor Code so that all participants are aware of the program's expectations and their personal responsibility to contribute to a positive living and learning environment. 

Safeguarding Student Health 
Staff members keep health information about each participant on hand at all times and are available to screen student medical concerns and provide first aid. Students who become ill or injured are taken to walk-in clinics or emergency rooms for treatment. Families are responsible for all health care costs incurred by their children during the program.

Ensuring Emergency Preparedness
We are committed to ensuring the highest level of preparedness for all types of emergencies. Creating and maintaining a safe and secure program environment is a responsibility shared by administrators, staff and students. Administrators organize service experiences and plan travel routes with an eye to safety and supervision. Staff monitor weather conditions and alter outdoor program activities in the event of inclement conditions. Staff are trained on fire, weather emergency, and evacuation plans and protocols and prepared to manage emergency situations. Finally, students are oriented to ways they can help ensure their own and their fellow group members' safety and well-being.

For information about how we manage Internet use and student privacy, as well as discrimination, disabilities and sexual harassment, please review CTD's Policy Statements.


CivicAction programs bring together diverse groups of bright, motivated students with an interest in service and a desire to develop skills for leadership and civic engagement.

This CivicAction program is open to students who:

  • are enrolled in grade 7 or 8 in a participating school district;
  • were identified for their school district's gifted and talented program OR have demonstrated a high level of academic excellence OR were nominated by their school for outstanding student leadership; and
  • have a sincere interest in learning about communities, social issues and civic engagement.

Tuition & Payment

CivicAction 2019 Tuition: $345
Tuition includes all program expenses:

  • Overnight lodging and all student meals
  • Transportation to and from all program activities
  • Service project materials and speaker fees
  • Staff instruction and 24-hour supervision

Financial Support
Financial support may be available through each school district. Contact your school principal for more information.

Payment Policies

  • No tuition deposit is required at time of application.
  • Tuition is due by October 21, 2019. Students with an outstanding balance at this deadline may lose their place in the program.
  • Tuition payments are nonrefundable.

Application Process & Timeline

Apply Now!
Submit an Online Application including a brief Statement of Purpose.

Applications must be submitted by October 7, 2019. Space in the program is limited. Some preference may be given to applications received early in the process.

Students are notified via e-mail of the status of their application on or around October 14, 2019. Accepted students receive admissions materials via e-mail at that time, including a final schedule, a list of things to bring, health information, tuition payment information, and program rules and policies.

Late Applications
Late applications may be accepted and considered as space in the program permits. Once the program is filled to capacity, qualified applicants may be placed on a waitlist.


September 12
Applications Open

October 7
Priority Application Deadline 

October 14
Admissions Materials E-mailed to Families 

October 21
Tuition & Forms Due 

November 1-2
CivicAction for West Consortium for Academic Excellence 

Contact Us

For information regarding CivicAction admissions, contact:

For information about CivicAction or other CEP programs, contact:

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