Enlight Environmental Youth Leadership Program

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Program Dates: July 10-24, 2017 (approximate)
Open to: San Francisco Bay Area high school students and adult mentors (priority given to sophomore and junior year students)
Location: Hong Kong & Guangzhou, China
Application Deadline: March 27, 2017 @ 5 PM PST (final deadline)

The Enlight Environmental Youth Leadership Program will allow students to explore Hong Kong and Guangzhou while developing their global leadership skills around the topic of environmental sustainability. The program uses a mix of classroom learning, expert speakers, experiential activities and peer exchange opportunities to introduce young leaders to new cultures and ideas and foster an interest in cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation. The program focuses on environmental issues such as waste, energy and water where students have the ability to make direct choices that create change.

This program is open to San Francisco Bay Area high school students and adult mentors. However, exceptional applicants from other parts of the United States who have a strong demonstrated interest in the environment will also be considered.

Adult Mentors: The program also recruits adult mentors to accompany participants and program staff. Please click here to learn more about this opportunity and how to apply.


VIA Environmental Youth Leadership Program from VIA Programs


During this two-week trip, participants will:Participants at Rooftop Garden

  • Meet people who are pursuing innovative solutions to pressing environmental problems, and participate in hands-on workshops on leadership and the environment
  • Be empowered to bring these ideas back to your own community
  • Explore new cultures through field trips and peer exchange with local students
  • Work with other participants and mentors on an in-depth research project digging deeper into an environmental issue of their choice

Participants have the option of adding on an additional week to the program to attend the National Youth Leadership Conference in Shanghai, with high school students from across China and other countries. The conference is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in local dorm life, meet and work together with other young leaders as you explore your own potential to create social change. The additional program fee for this add-on is $1500.

Information for Parents

VIA (Volunteers in Asia) is a nonprofit with 52 years of experience running cultural exchange and experiential learning programs in Asia. Our programs strive to encourage young leaders to learn about other cultures and empower them to become changemakers. VIA staff members and Bay Area educators will ensure that participants are well supervised at all times, and we have comprehensive emergency plans in place in case problems arise during the program. We will provide time for periodic check-ins between students and their families during the program, and VIA staff in our San Francisco headquarters will be in constant contact with the traveling group while the students are abroad.

Program Cost: $2,500 (not including international airfare). VIA is committed to a diverse cohort, and ensuring that international travel opportunities are accessible to students from all backgrounds, so we offer a significant number of need-based scholarships on a sliding scale, ranging from partial to full coverage of the program costs.

Note: The adult mentors are chosen through a competitive application process, and don’t pay a program fee.

The program fee covers:

The program fee does not cover:

  • Meals and lodging
  • Transportation while abroad
  • All entrance and activity fees
  • Visa costs
  • International travel insurance
  • 24-hour program staff
  • Incidentals like laundry
  • International airfare
  • Passport fees
  • Spending money for souvenirs

Note: These costs may be covered in part by scholarships

Eligibility Criteria

The program is open to San Francisco Bay Area high school students and adult mentors with an interest in cross-cultural exchange and a passion for the environment. (Exceptional applicants from other parts of the United States who have a strong demonstrated interest in the environment will also be considered). We prioritize sophomore and junior applicants, but will consider applications from outstanding freshmen and seniors.

Student Participants

  • Should be a high school student in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Should have demonstrated interest in environmental issues through coursework or extracurricular activities
  • Should have demonstrated flexibility, maturity, integrity, and open-mindedness

Adult Mentors

  • Must have experience working with Bay Area high school-aged youth
  • Must be interested/involved in environmental education at the high school level
  • Preference given to those who have experience mentoring/advising/chaperoning student groups outside of formal class hours

Participant Expectations

  • Obtain a passport (there will be scholarships available for students who need help with the passport fees)
  • Complete all pre-departure readings and assignments
  • Participate in the pre-departure orientation in San Francisco prior to the trip
  • Complete all post-program follow-up activities, which may include a community service project and attending VIA’s annual high school youth leadership forum in December

eeylp-cultural-exchange“VIA’s AYLP trip provided me with a transformative and life-changing opportunity for me to grow as a leader and a responsible citizen of the world while surrounded in a group of like-minded peers, mentors, and friends we meet along the way. One major skill that I have learned during the trip so far is how to live in the moment, and how to be flexible to what life brings me. Prior to the program, I always wanted to have a set goal in mind, a set schedule in place, or a set process in motion. However, I realized that this “locked-down” ideology was hindering my creativity, that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could be unlocked to it’s full potential if I came into each day inquisitive and with an open mind. Instead of just racing to the door that I wanted to open, like a cheetah closing in on its prey, I now have time to see all the other doors, all the other opportunities that I would have previously missed. In essence, if you go into an experience knowing exactly what you want the outcome of it to be, you will likely only get that outcome, at best. However, if you go into an experience not knowing your exact goals, then it will allow for more creativity, happiness, and personal growth.” – youth environmental program participant, 2015

“I think that my leadership and cultural experience is kind of one in the same. I think that whenever you are going to make a eeylp-guitarchange in, make a difference in anything you are doing, you need to understand the culture of where you’re implementing that change before you can do anything else. You need to understand the people, how they live, how they think.  And I think that is one of the biggest things that I got from this trip.  And so when it comes to environmental leadership and making a difference you have to understand that how people live in San Francisco is very different from how people live in Oakland—how people live in Guangzhou is very different than how people live in Hong Kong—and so when you make change the perspective of whoever you are working with is possibly the most important aspect of your leadership experience.” – youth environmental program participant, 2015


There are several different parts to the application process, and it can take some time. Please use this suggested steps as a guide to complete and submit all the pieces on time:

  • Discuss the program with your parents.
  • Complete the first section of the application (see Application section for details).
  • Read over the short answer questions and start thinking about your responses.
  • Contact 2-3 people to ask about completing the letter of recommendation form for you. It’s a good idea to explain to them why you’re interested in the program and how it will help you in your studies and future goals. Let them know it has to be sent to Brooke Bryant by March 27, 2017.
  • Send the Letter of Recommendation Form to the person who has agreed to fill it out (see Application section for form). You only need one letter of recommendation.
  • Complete the short answer questions and submit your application.
  • If applying for a scholarship, review the scholarship application form with your parents and start composing your essay (see Application section for details). If using the online form, we suggest you write your 1 page essay in a Word document first, then copy/paste it into the online form.
  • Contact your letter writer to let them know you’ve submitted all of your materials (and ask/remind them about submitting the form to Brooke by the deadline).

Final deadline for all application materials: 5:00 PM (PST) on March 27, 2017

Late March/Early April

  • Semi-finalists will be contacted to participate in an interview.

Adult Mentor Application Process

The program also recruits adult mentors to accompany participants and program staff. Please click here to learn more about this opportunity and how to apply.

Student Application Details

Once you start your application, you can save at any time and return later to keep working on it.

The application includes the following sections:

  1. Basic Information
    • Personal Information
    • Applicant & Parents’ Contact Information
    • School Information
    • Other Information (interest in scholarship, travel experience, etc)
  2. Short Answer Responses (250-500 words)
    •  Please describe why you are interested in EEYLP, what you hope to learn, and what you will contribute to the program if you are chosen.
    • Describe an environmental issue/problem that you are passionate about. What steps could you take as an individual to address this problem?
    • Tell us about a time you took an active leadership role – what strengths did you bring to the role? What aspects did you find challenging, and how did you overcome these challenges?
    • Talk about a stressful situation that you faced, and describe the strategies you used to deal with it.
    • Tell us something interesting or important about yourself that hasn’t been addressed in other questions.
  3. Letter of Recommendation
    • A teacher, coach, employer, or other adult mentor must submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf.
    • This form is only available as a Word document, and must be emailed by the letter writer to Brooke Bryant (brooke|at|viaprograms.org).
  4. Scholarship Application (only for students applying for a partial or full scholarship)
    • There are some questions regarding family income and dependents, so please review the form with your parents.
    • At the end of the application, you will be asked to write a one-page essay (400-500 words).
      • Essay Question: Please submit a one-page essay with this application explaining why participating in this program is important to you, how it will contribute to your future plans, and how you would bring the lessons you learn back to your community.

How to Apply

There are two ways to complete the application:

  • Apply Online
    The basic information, short answer responses, and scholarship application can be completed online. Start by clicking the blue Apply button at the top of the page.

— OR —

  • Download & Email Forms
    You can also download the forms as Word documents, fill them out, and email them to Youth Programs Director, Brooke Bryant (brooke|at|viaprograms.org) by 5pm March 27, 2017 (application materials may have an earlier deadline listed – please disregard all deadlines before March 24).

— AND —

  • Letter of Recommendation
    The letter of recommendation can ONLY be downloaded and emailed. Please download this form and email it to the person filling it out for you. That person must email it to Brooke Bryant (brooke|at|viaprograms.org) by 5pm March 24, 2017.