Group picture of camp attendees at the UK Student Center steps

Summer Leadership Experience 2023

What comes next after you graduate high school?

When students toss their caps in the air, a whole new world opens up and they’re faced with a number of new choices that could have a profound effect on their future. Choices like that are hard to make. How do you further your education? Do you go straight into the workforce? It’s difficult for everyone, with added stresses for students with disabilities.

But the UK Human Development Institute’s Summer Leadership Experience Camp exists to help make those decisions a little less scary and make it easier to adjust to that next step in the educational process which could lead to a career. The camp invites speakers who can help young adults find the right choice for the next stage in their lives and how to take advantage of accessibility resources available – and how to push beyond challenges like getting academic accommodations and dealing with social stigma.  

July 2023 was the seventh time the camp has been held, and according to HDI Disability Program Administrator Teresa Belluscio, who leads the team that makes the camp happen, it went wonderfully this year.

“I thought we had a really good group of campers. We had a total of twelve,” Belluscio said. “We had some really good speakers. Speakers were really compelling and engaging.”

Speakers ranged from perennial favorite Cody Clark, an autistic magician who did a special show one day, followed by a talk on resilience the next, a panel college disability service offices to talk about how to access vital accommodations, support and resources, to Travis Freeman, a Kentucky pastor who, in high school, became the first blind football player in America and was the inspiration for the film 23 Blast.

“We packed this camp with so much,” Belluscio said. “There’s more we could do, but we don’t want to make it so busy to where campers are just sitting and sitting in session after session.”

To that end, this year’s camp departed from previous years – fewer speakers, but more fun activities. Students visited the UK Esports Lounge, held dance parties, relaxed at bookstores, and even more. Belluscio thinks this gave the camp a better balance of useful information and fun and made it more effective.

“We made it a little less busy. We built in a little more time in between sessions,” she said. “Even though we were busy, we didn’t feel as rushed.”

Isaiah Jones, one of the campers who attended this year, said that he enjoyed his experience and got a lot out of it.

“It was great,” he said. “The speakers are really helpful because they get to tell you what career you get to choose, how you can get help from your disability center, and what majors to expect you can take.”

He will be attending UK as a freshman soon and felt like he especially benefitted from learning to navigate the campus. But as useful was a taste of the college experience – living in a dorm and with a roommate.

For some, the camp was a powerful experience, giving them the opportunity to see a potentially great future for themselves.

“One of the campers told me after engaging in Cody Clark’s session on reliable resilience, ‘It was like I was looking at myself from the outside,’” Belluscio said. “They connected so much.”

Summer Leadership Camp Experience Group Picture

2021 Summer Leadership Experience Accepting Applications

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute in partnership with the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation present the Summer Leadership Experience on July 7–10, 2021. All Kentucky high school upperclassmen (entering juniors and seniors) with disabilities are welcome to apply. Students can apply online at and pay the $50 application fee which includes a 3-night stay in a campus dorm, all meals & snacks, interactive sessions about education and career planning, financial assistance, and resources to develop skills needed to take steps after high school with confidence and success.  

The registration deadline is June 11, 2021. For more information, call 859-257-1714 or email Teresa Belluscio at

Woman with long brown hair wearing a blue shirt in front of a classroom of 7 students wearing a black sweatshirt, burgundy sweatshirt and hat, black sweatshirt with multi-colored lettering, tie dye blue and pink shirt, blue flannel shirt, navy sweatshirt. One student, wearing a white sweatshirt with black cartoons on it, has his hand raised.

Participate in the 2020 Virtual Summer Leadership Experience

The 2020 Virtual Summer Leadership Experience for Kentucky high school students with disabilities entering 11th or 12th grade will be held online from July 29 – 31 from 10:00am – 4:00pm daily. Register by July 12 at to reserve your spot. Campers with articulated plans to continue their education upon exiting high school are given priority acceptance.  Camp sessions include financial aid, access to resources to support student success, health and wellness, and leadership skill development.

This camp is sponsored by our partners at the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Contact for more information.


Woman with long brown hair wearing blue tshirt presenting to a class

Summer Leadership Experience

The University of Kentucky (UK) Human Development Institute (HDI) and the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation invites Kentucky high school students with disabilities entering their junior or senior year to apply for the Summer Leadership Experience. This three-day overnight camp on the campus of the University of Kentucky equips young adults to be successful in higher education like college, technical school, or apprenticeship after high school. Students will participate in skill-building activities in a variety of areas including advocacy, health and fitness, accommodations, independent living, technology, financial management, preparation for higher education or training, and much more.

The Summer Leadership Experience is held at the University of Kentucky. Students interested in attending should complete and submit an application, letter of recommendation, and $50 for registration, lodging, meals, and a t-shirt. The Camp Director will begin contacting applicants in April; however, the registration window is open until June 21, 2020.

The application can be accessed at If you need the application in another format, contact

Project Contact
Teresa Belluscio

UK Memorial Hall

Summer Leadership Training Camp 2017

The Summer Leadership Experience is a wonderful opportunity for high school juniors and seniors with mild to moderate disabilities to get a glimpse of the college experience for a week this summer. This program is for students who want to transition to higher education. The Summer Leadership Experience is a day camp that will begin at 9 am on Monday, July 17th and will run through Friday, July 21st. Continue reading