The annual Catalyst Conference brings a select group of approximately 100 high school students from North Carolina high schools to UNC-Chapel Hill for a weekend-long exploration and discussion of social justice issues impacting North Carolina youth.

Catalyst Conference will occur from the afternoon of Friday, February 16, 2018 to the afternoon of Sunday, February 18, 2018.

Applications for the 2018 conference are now CLOSED. Thank you to all 561 students who took the time to submit applications! Due to the record-breaking number of applications we received, the decision release has been pushed back to Jan 5, 2018. (Both positive and negative decisions will receive a response; if you have not received your decision by Jan 6, please contact us at!)

Please check back Fall 2018 for 2019 applications.


During this weekend, selected students will engage with UNC-CH student leaders who work at the forefront of social issues at the university, in North Carolina, across the country, and abroad. Students will participate in workshops that introduce them to issues of gender, racial and socioeconomic equality; educational disparity; immigration status; sexual orientation; and more. These workshops will address the impact of these issues on students in both urban and rural North Carolina.

Participants will face a challenging task: They will be asked to view the world through the eyes of others and to learn about the underlying similarities that connect us all. By cultivating their leadership skills, we prepare students to be catalysts for positive change in their own communities.

Check out our list of FAQ’s for more info about the Conference — student drop-off and pick-up sites and times, etc. Students, teachers or counselors interested in the Catalyst Conference, should contact the co-directors with any questions.

The Catalyst Conference has a $50 registration fee upon acceptance to the conference. Payments should not be included with the application. We do offer financial aid if this registration fee is a monetary hurdle. Financial aid applications will be sent after decisions have been released. Email if you have any questions about financial aid.

Follow Catalyst on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for updates about the conference, meetings, fundraising and other Catalyst fun!

Instagram: unccatalyst

Twitter: @UNCCatalyst

Facebook: Catalyst Conference


Hannah Dent and Morgan Howard



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Catalyst Mission

  1. To give high school students the opportunity to build and learn from personal relationships that transcend racial, ethnic, religious and gender boundaries;
  2. To provide an open forum for the discussion of the community issues of social justice, equality and pluralism;
  3. To empower high school students to develop strategies to combat apathy and ignorance that threaten the future of you youth through leadership training; and,
  4. To transform high school students into catalysts for positive social change and generate a vision of social harmony in the 21st century and beyond.



When will I hear back about applications? 

2018 decisions will be released on January 5. In addition, please visit our Applicant Timeline page for a general guideline or check our Home Page or social media for more specific dates.

How do I contact the Catalyst Conference Co-Chairs?

Please e-mail us at

Where will students be dropped off and picked up at the Conference?

Students will be dropped off and picked up behind the UNC Campus Y, located near Memorial Hall, Gerrard Hall and South Building. The Y is just off of South Road and there will be staff assisting parents towards the right areas during drop off and pick up times.

Campus Y Address:

180A E. Cameron Avenue
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
CB #5115
Chapel Hill NC 27599-5115

Where will students be staying?

Students will have the opportunity to meet and get to know service-oriented college students through on-campus housing during the Conference. Small groups of students are paired with service scholars who live on campus at UNC.  These scholars have volunteered to house the students during the weekend of the conference.

When is check in on Friday?

Check begins at 3:30 p.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m. on Friday at the Campus Y. The campus map in your registration packet should include directions to the check-in location.

When is check out on Sunday?

Pick-up for the Catalyst conference will be between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Campus Y.

Is financial aid available for the $50 registration fee?

Yes! It is important to us that all students who are accepted to the conference are able to attend, so we will work with you to ensure financial aid is made available to you.   A separate financial aid application will be sent to you after acceptance decisions have been announced, so look for that information around mid-January. If you have any questions, email the co-directors at with the subject line Financial Aid.

What is the mailing address for the Catalyst Conference?

Attn: Catalyst Conference
180A E. Cameron Avenue
YMCA Building University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill NC 27599-5115

How much money will I need to bring?

Other than the registration fee (which covers housing, meals, a T-shirt, and informational materials), students should not have to spend any money at the conference.  If students intend to purchase UNC souvenirs during supervised free time on Saturday or want to purchase items, such as drinks or snacks, from vending machines, they should bring additional money.

What is open mic?

Open mic provides participants with the space to express yourself, your talents, whatever. Students are not obligated to participate in this event, but the floor will be open. If you want to participate, please bring any necessary props or instruments, but please note you will have to carry them with you for most of Saturday.

What do you mean by “banquet clothes”?

The banquet is a nice catered dinner, so we ask that you dress accordingly. For example, an appropriate outfit may include black or khaki dress pants with a collared, tucked-in shirt; a skirt and blouse; a dress; etc. Please browse the pictures from previous years to get some ideas. If you still have questions feel free to email the co-chairs to ask.

How much should I pack?

We encourage attendees to pack lightly. See below for more information:

Who do I contact to learn about donations or otherwise supporting the conference?

We love support! Please contact the co-chairs by emailing Thanks!

Directions to UNC



Our address is 180 E Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. For directions to the Campus Y, put your starting location in the Google map below!



There is no long-term parking available at the Campus Y. We strongly encourage students to be dropped off and picked up by a parent or guardian so you do not have to find on-campus parking for the weekend. Short-term parking (15-30 minutes) will be available during check in and check out during the conference. Please contact the Special Events Parking office with UNC DPS at 919-962-4424 to make arrangements for long-term parking if you need to keep your car on campus.