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Career Development Program

Youth Mental Health Academy

Build a Career in Mental Health

Are you a rising high school junior or senior interested in a career in mental health? Gain valuable knowledge and experience through paid training, summer internships, and support from mentors working in the industry.

We are no longer accepting applications for 2024. Sign up to receive updates about next year’s program.

What is the Youth Mental Health Academy?

A 14-month community-based program for students from structurally marginalized communities in California. YMHA provides hands-on learning in mental health science, practice, and communications through:


Project-Based Learning

You’ll receive a stipend of up to $2,000 to learn about topics in mental health and develop skills through a 5-week academy during your first summer.

Through project-based learning, you will…

  • develop mental health literacy
  • complete a final (capstone) group presentation
  • explore career options


You’ll be matched with a mentor who is in a health-related field.

Your mentor will…

  • serve as a positive role model
  • share their college experiences
  • support academic progress and college prep

Paid Internship

You’ll get the benefit of real-life job experience and a stipend during your second summer.

Your internship will…

  • be remote, hybrid, or in-person
  • allow you to apply the skills you developed during project-based learning
  • help you develop career connections

Integrated Support

Youth Mental Health Academy team members are with you every step of the way.

Integrated support provides…

  • student and caregiver workshops
  • college access planning
  • connection to community resources

Program Schedule

The application deadline is March 31, 2024. Students will be notified by May 1st if they match with the program.

1st Summer

June 24 – July 26, 2024
Onsite Mental Health Academy
Mon – Fri: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Academic Year

Aug 2024 – May 2025
Monthly workshops & mentor support
Virtual & in-person

2nd Summer

June & July 2025
Internship in mental health-related field

What You'll Learn

YMHA runs for five weeks during the first summer, regularly throughout the school year, and for up to six weeks during the second summer.

Mental Health Science & Practice

Mental Health Science & Practice

During your first summer, participate in a 5-week paid program led by instructors and professionals who work in mental health fields. Through interactive lessons and discussions, you will delve deep into topics concerning mental health effects, treatment, research, and related careers.

The curriculum is concentrated on 3 core areas:

  • Mental health disorders, health inequities, and dissemination
    of information
  • Mental health career options and requirements
  • Academic enrichment activities and college readiness
Capstone Project

Capstone Project

Synthesize the information, skills, and practices you’ve acquired during the summer academy to develop a culminating capstone project with the support of your mentor. The capstone project will convey your understanding of a specific mental health focus of your choice, and will be comprised of a research paper, creative component, and display.

School Year Workshops & Psych Talks

School Year Workshops & Psych Talks

Stay engaged and informed throughout the school year with monthly workshops led by industry experts and regular check-ins with your mentor. Expand on topics covered at the summer academy, network with professionals and peers, and keep motivated with academic and career aspirations.

Interactive workshops include:

  • Continued education on mental health
  • Navigating college applications and writing personal statements
  • Career fairs and expert panels
Summer Internship

Summer Internship

During your second summer, gain real-world experience working as an intern in a mental health-related field. You will be grouped based on interest and location and paired with a youth serving community-based organization or research organization. Through approximately 100 hours, you will build career skills, contribute to the success of an organization, and continue to develop professional networks.

Interns will gain experience:

  • Fielding research and analyzing data
  • Using data to develop recommendations for mental health interventions and advocacy
  • Collaborating with peers on issues that are meaningful to your community

Paid Mentoring Opportunities

College or graduate students, or early-career professionals in health-related fields, can apply to be paid mentors. You’ll advise a small group of students at least twice per week during the summer and at least once a month during the school year. You may also have opportunities to facilitate workshops around mental health and college access. Participation will include in-person and virtual meetings.


Opportunities for Professionals

Career professionals working in clinical, research, or media/communication roles can apply to be internship supervisors. You’ll create a well-defined role within your organization for a group of high school students and supervise them during the summer of 2025. There may also be opportunities for you to be involved in panels and support students throughout the 2024–25 academic year.


Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get more program information?

The YMHA Team will be hosting weekly information sessions for students and parents. The live virtual sessions will include a detailed program overview and a Q&A.

Click here to sign up for a session.

Am I eligible to participate?

To be eligible to become a Youth Mental Health Academy participant, you must:

  • Be enrolled in a public or private high school in California at the time of application
  • Be from a structurally marginalized community (see next question for details)
  • Have a strong interest in mental health
  • Commit to completing the entire program, from June 2024 through July 2025 (5-week project-based learning in summer of 2024 + programming throughout the school year + up to 6-week internship in summer 2025)
  • Give proof of personal medical/health insurance coverage from June 2024 to July 2025
  • Have an overall GPA of 2.5 or higher
What is a structurally marginalized community?

YMHA aims to diversify the mental health field by providing opportunities to students from marginalized communities as defined below.

If you are not sure if you qualify, or you believe your situation deserves additional consideration, we encourage you to go ahead and apply!

Students only need to meet one of the following:

  • Racial or Ethnic Group: Black or African American, Hispanic, Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders
  • Disability: Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • Identity: You, your parents, or your caregiver identify as LGBTQIA+
  • Disadvantaged Background: Were or currently are homeless, share housing, live in shelters, or other substandard housing; were or currently are in the foster care system.
  • Grew up in one of the following areas:
    • U.S. rural area, as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration
    • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-designated Low-Income and Health Professional Shortage Areas
    • Native American reservation
  • Federal Support Programs: Were or currently eligible for
    • Federal Free & Reduced Lunch Program
    • Federal Pell grants
    • Support from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Other criteria:
    • Parent or guardian has not completed a bachelor’s degree
    • Have been in the juvenile legal system
    • Have one or more parents or caregivers enlisted in the U.S. military
Why should I apply?

Youth Mental Health Academy participants receive:

  • A paid internship in a mental health-related field
  • Paid project-based learning experience (up to $2,000 stipend) around mental health issues, symptoms, and treatment, and an introduction to careers related to mental health
  • Mentorship from an individual studying or working in a health-related field
  • An opportunity to complete a capstone presentation
  • Access to a series of workshops throughout the school year to further advance mental health knowledge, prepare for upcoming internships, and increase readiness for college
  • Guidance and support in completing college and financial aid applications
How do I apply?

We are now accepting applications for the 2024 program.

Apply now

Why was the Youth Mental Health Academy created?

The purpose of the Youth Mental Health Academy is to increase representation in the mental health field of groups who have historically lacked access to these careers. The Academy aims to inspire and cultivate a group of young people who will, as they mature, be able to provide high-quality mental health services.

How will the Academy improve diversity in mental health fields?

Students in the Academy’s first cohort will be recruited from structurally marginalized populations in Southern California. That includes young people of color, LGBTQIA+ youth, those from isolated and rural communities, and those who have experienced foster care, the juvenile justice system, homelessness, or poverty.

At the Child Mind Institute, when we see a problem that affects children’s mental health, we strive to address it. The Youth Mental Health Academy will move our field towards being more representative and understanding of the populations in need of our services, while inspiring and cultivating the mental health leaders of tomorrow.

How was the Youth Mental Health Academy started?

The state of California and its leaders are committed to improving access to mental health care for all Californians and recognize that a shortage of diverse healthcare providers presents a significant barrier to achieving that goal. That’s why they are committed to bringing this program to structurally marginalized communities such as BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ youth. Together with experts from the Child Mind Institute they’re taking steps to cultivate tomorrow’s diverse mental health leaders.

The Child Mind Institute is the leading independent nonprofit in children’s mental health. They have convened a team of experts to design and implement Youth Mental Health Academy activities.

Resources for Caregivers & Educators

Free Resources for Caregivers

Families and caregivers have an important role to play. When teens feel supported, it shows. Check out our free resources on how to address teens’ mental health challenges.


School Resources

As an educator, connecting your students with the Youth Mental Health Academy is as easy as sharing this webpage with them. If you want to do more, please download resources here to help spread the word.


Our Team

Our leadership team brings together a diverse group of professionals to provide the Youth Mental Health Academy's uniquely comprehensive services.

Meet the Team
Youth Mental Health Academy Logo

The Youth Mental Health Academy comes from a partnership between the state of California and the Child Mind Institute with the goal of diversifying the mental health field.


Our team is here to help. Send us a message or contact us at

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