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Youth Mental Health Academy Logo
Youth Mental Health Academy

Building Careers in Mental Health

Providing community-based career development to rising high school juniors and seniors from structurally marginalized communities, through paid project-based learning and paid summer internships.


What is the Youth Mental Health Academy?

A community-based, career development program for high school students that takes place over the course of 14 months. The YMHA includes the following:

  • Paid project-based learning and final (capstone) group presentation during the first summer of the program
  • Mentorship and integrated support throughout the duration of the program
  • A paid internship in the mental health field during the second summer of the program. Internships are supervised by career professionals from organizations doing work in:
    • Brain and mental health research
    • Clinical practice
    • Mental health media and communications

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.

How to Apply

We provide mentorship and paid training to high school students in structurally marginalized communities to inspire and cultivate tomorrow’s mental health leaders.



Project-Based Learning Experiences and Internships for High School Students

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2023 program. Sign up to get updates on next year’s program.

Youth Mental Health Academy participants receive:

  • First summer: Paid project-based learning around mental health issues, symptoms, treatment, and careers, and an opportunity to complete a capstone presentation (with a stipend of up to $2,000)
  • Academic year programming: College planning workshops and other community-building activities
  • Second summer: A paid internship in a mental health-related field
  • Duration of program: Mentorship from an early-career professional or a college or graduate student pursuing a health-related career



The application process opens each year in March, and students who apply find out in May if they match with the program. The academy runs for five weeks during the first summer, regularly throughout the school year, and for up to six weeks during the second summer. In 2023, the summer dates are June 19 through July 22. Continued programming runs during the academic year. The academy concludes with internships in the summer of 2024.

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 2024. There may also be opportunities for you to be involved in panels and support students throughout the 2023–24 academic year.


How We're Different

Curious about what makes the Youth Mental Health Academy different?


Project-Based Learning

You’ll receive a stipend of up to $2,000 to learn about topics in mental health and develop skills through hands-on experiences (first summer).

Through project-based learning, you will…

  • develop mental health literacy
  • complete a final (capstone) group presentation
  • learn about 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 too (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

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

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.


Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible to participate in the Youth Mental Health Academy?

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 (details in application form)
  • Have a strong interest in mental health
  • Commit to completing the entire program, from June 2023 through July 2024 (5-week project-based learning in summer of 2023 + programming throughout the school year + up to 6-week internship in summer 2024)
  • Give proof of personal medical/health insurance coverage from June 2023 to July 2024
  • Have an overall GPA of 2.5 or higher
Why should I apply to the Youth Mental Health Academy?

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 to the Youth Mental Health Academy?

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2023 program. Sign up to get updates on next year’s program.

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.


Please contact our team at YMHA@childmind.org