Five students from throughout Georgia participated in the inaugural Destination Dawgs Summer Leadership Institute, a summer program at the University of Georgia for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The summer leadership program, implemented by UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development helped those students learn what it’s like to be a college student.

They lived in dorms and experienced three days of typical campus activities, including eating in the dining halls and riding on UGA buses. They were able to chat with and learn from UGA students and participate in sessions with peer mentors.

“My favorite part was hanging out and playing games in the dorms and making new friends,” said Justin, a participant.

This institute is a prerequisite for the five-semester Destination Dawgs program which is housed within the College of Family and Consumer Sciences’ Institute on Human Development and Disability. The non-degree certificate program is for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities and aims to help them transition to adulthood and meaningful employment.

The program was implemented after a 2013-15 feasibility study on inclusive post-secondary education at UGA.

“We have been working toward convening a summer leadership institute for young people with intellectual and development disabilities for more than four years, and to finally have this group of students on campus investing in their personal leadership development was a great success,” the Fanning Institute’s Lori Tiller said.

Peer mentors led participants in activities that emphasized goal setting and leadership development. There was also a scavenger hunt and obstacle course.

“The obstacle course took a lot of focus and communication,” said Britta, a participant. “It was hard to know when to lead and which way to go. I had to trust that people would help me get over my fear.”

The Destination Dawgs Summer Leadership Institute was held July 15–17. For more information on the certificate program, contact DestinationDawgs@uga.edu.