UK Human Development Institute Welcomes Kentucky High School Upperclassmen with Disabilities to Apply to its Summer Leadership Experience Camp 

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The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute will host its Summer Leadership Experience camp for its sixth consecutive summer. The transitional experience camp, which will take place July 6-9, welcomes rising high school juniors and seniors with disabilities in Kentucky to apply. The camp, which is sponsored by Kentucky’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, offers both in-person and virtual options. The in-person camp is available to students who are current clients of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the virtual camp is open to students who are not.  

According to Teresa Belluscio, Human Development Institute disability specialist and Summer Leadership Experience director, the camp is perfect for students who are planning to continue their education after high school, whether through a university, community college, internship, apprenticeship or other special program or training. The camp is designed to introduce the students to new experiences they can’t get at home, such as navigating a college campus and sharing space with a roommate, while also providing practical information sessions.  

The information sessions are available in-person to students, as well as virtually to parents and virtual campers. In previous summers, representatives from UK’s Disability Resource Center have come in for panel discussions, teaching students how to navigate disability resources in university settings and how to set up accommodations. In another information session, a representative from the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority came to talk to students about KEES money–scholarships available to all Kentucky students based on GPA and other metrics.  

“We want them to understand the financial piece, because most high school students really don’t,” Belluscio said. 

In a hands-on activity, campers are given a schedule of active UK courses and taken to the campus bookstore to track down the textbooks needed for each course. Students work together in small groups to locate each textbook and write down the books’ prices. Belluscio then leads a discussion on the various options for college textbooks–such as renting, buying used books and eBooks. Belluscio and camp staff help the students understand why you might choose one type of book over another depending on the course and your own needs. 

Students at the in-person camp stay in residence halls on UK’s campus and eat meals in a UK dining hall. The days are broken up with recreational activities, such as rock climbing at the Johnson Center. Evenings are filled with fun and motivational guest speakers. 

“A favorite is Cody–who is autistic, went to college, has a degree and built a business for himself as a magician,” Belluscio said. “He’s an all-time favorite. He did multiple sessions last year, from a magic show, to talking about living with autism, to how he built his business.” 

Campers are sent evaluations at the end of camp each summer. Cody, the magician, got the highest ratings last year. 

“So we know which sessions [the students] really liked and what they enjoyed,” Belluscio said. 

Applications for the Summer Leadership Experience are due May 15. The in-person experience is limited to 20 campers. For more information and to begin your application, click here

For more information, contact Teresa Belluscio at 859-257-1714 or teresa.belluscio@uky.edu

Written by: Court Cox