A University of Georgia summer leadership program continues to help prepare students with intellectual or developmental disabilities for their futures while also giving them a college experience.

Seven participants, representing six different Georgia counties, completed the third annual Destination Dawgs Summer Leadership Institute, held July 18 – 20 on the UGA campus.

Coordinated by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development in partnership with the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, the summer leadership institute is a prerequisite for the Destination Dawgs program, which is housed within the College of Family and Consumer Sciences’ Institute on Human Development and Disability (IHDD).

Destination Dawgs offers participants a chance to prepare to transition to adulthood and independent living by auditing classes on campus, learning job skills and building a social network, all with the help of peer mentors.

“The summer leadership institute is integral to Destination Dawgs,” said Carol Britton Laws, a clinical associate professor and interdisciplinary training director for IHDD. “The students learn about leadership and goal setting, and it brings them out of their comfort zone and helps them to see themselves differently. Also, it allows us to get to know them in the college environment prior to admission to the Destination Dawgs program.”

Along with training on leadership development and goal setting, the students visited the Science Library to experience 3-D printing and virtual reality, took a customized tour of campus with a student tour guide from the Visitor’s Center, completed a scavenger hunt and ropes course, attended a UGA class, met with current Destination Dawgs students and experienced campus life.

“We organize the program to observe how the students respond to these real life, college situations,” said Lori Tiller, Fanning Institute faculty member. “The partners who helped make these events happen did a wonderful job, creating engaging opportunities for the prospective students that they truly enjoyed.”

Guiding the participants through the leadership institute are student mentors.

“I have seen these students make a lot of progress over the few days they spent on campus,” said Jeremy Zimmerman, a 2018 UGA graduate with bachelor’s degrees in biology and religion that returned to campus to serve as a mentor for the second time. “They are so open and they integrate into the campus so quickly and it is very rewarding watching them grow.”

Participants in this year’s class said the program let them experience new things.

“I was nervous to be here at first,” said Austin, one of this year’s participants. “But, I have enjoyed this very much and I am proud that I came here.”

The 2018 Destination Dawgs Summer Leadership Institute was made possible thanks to a gift from the NCR Foundation. “NCR Foundation is proud to support inclusive higher education for students with developmental disabilities, this program provides opportunities for the students to grow and reach their fullest potential,” said Yvonne Whitaker, NCR Foundation Lead.

“We appreciate the NCR Foundation’s generosity and support of the Destination Dawgs program and the summer leadership institute,” Laws said.

Now in its third year, a total of 17 students have participated in the Destination Dawgs Summer Leadership Institute.

For more information on the Destination Dawgs program, e-mail DestinationDawgs@uga.edu.

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About The NCR Foundation

The NCR Foundation was established in 1953 to help support community needs consistent with its mission. As NCR Corporation has evolved into a leader in omni-channel solutions, turning everyday interactions with businesses into exceptional experiences, the NCR Foundation has evolved its grant strategy consistent with its focus on providing opportunities where there is potential.  Our mission is to support NCR’s interest in building stronger communities by making strategic grants to non-profit partners in our communities including global grants through U.S.-based international non-profit agencies in the focus areas of education, disability issues and health support programs.

Writer: Charlie Bauder; 706-542-7039; charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu