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Clayton State to host USG summer program for foster care youth

(May 31, 2024) - With the return of summer naturally comes the return of summer camp.

The sun sets over Clayton State University's campus in Morrow, Georgia.

And Clayton State is ready to open its doors for a rather special one.

From Sunday, June 2, to Wednesday, June 5, Clayton State University will be hosting a four-day, three-night camp for high school-aged youth that are currently part of the state’s foster care system. 

Currently enrolled Lakers will serve as mentors for the campers, who will spend their time learning about each of the university’s colleges, majors, and careers while also focusing on their own growth and development and recognizing their potential.

Dr. Allen Ward, associate vice president for Student Affairs, said roughly 20 students will be participating in the Clayton State summer program and believes it has the chance to create “many potential advantages” for the youth who attend.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for the Division of Student Affairs to be able to provide this camp,” Ward said. “Some of the students may be exposed to college for the first time. This may give them confidence that otherwise might not exist about their chances of succeeding and seeing themselves in this kind of professional environment.”

Ward added that guests of the summer program will call Laker Hall their home for the four-day camp all while being treated to free meals, motivational speaker events, peer mentorship, leadership activities, and more.

Financially, the program is supported by a grant from the State of Georgia, which all USG institutions may apply for to receive funding for their respective summer camp programs.

Asst. Dean of Students Sarah Ray said that Clayton State University has been working to organize a summer camp for foster youth “for quite a while” and is excited to see the inaugural camp in action.

“Just the variety of what we're offering to these young people – you go from leadership and motivation to service,” Ray said. “I think that's key when they come to a college campus to see what a university is made of. If they don’t have an experience of academia, knowing that they can get those learning experiences really opens the door for them.”

Ray recalled attending the 2024 Embark Georgia Leadership Conference in February at the University of Georgia – one of several USG institutions to host a prior foster summer camp program.

In Athens, Ray was provided with a photo tour to see what the experience was like for those in UGA’s 2023 program.

And now, saying she’s excited to see Clayton State’s inaugural program launch has become a vast understatement.

“You had students taking pictures of their keys when they checked into the residence hall, the bikes that they rode around campus, a picture of their plate and dining hall – things that when we've been to college or we work at a college institution, we take for granted,” Ray said. “This is a space that, now, they can see themselves in. No matter the number of students we receive, that is going to make a major impact ... that's pretty phenomenal.”

Ward shared Ray’s sentiments, further hoping for nothing short of utmost success in the summer camp’s opening year.

“What I hope students get out of it is confidence that they can succeed here,” Ward said. “Hopefully, they will walk away with enough confidence and knowledge that, ‘maybe this is a place I can see myself being successful at,’ and, ‘maybe some of the dreams that I've had all along, maybe I can accomplish them.’”

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