A group of high school students currently in foster care across Georgia grew their leadership skills and received a college campus experience through a UGA summer program.

The seventh annual College Bound summer leadership program, hosted by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, brought 20 youth to the UGA campus from June 18-22.

During the program, Fanning Institute faculty members worked with the youth to teach them about leadership concepts, team building, and financial literacy.

Along with developing their leadership abilities, the students learned more about preparing for college from counselors and advisors, stayed in the university’s residence halls, and visited a host of campus facilities.

“The College Bound experience gives students a chance to take stock of where they are and focus on their future,” said David Meyers, a public service associate at the Fanning Institute who directs the College Bound summer program. “These students have big dreams, and we help them acquire the necessary tools to achieve those by developing their personal leadership skills and providing them important information about higher education, including financial aid and the admissions process, that they will need.”

A high school sophomore participating in this year’s College Bound program said the experience would help her future.

“I was able to get a feel for what it will be like when I go to college,” the student said. “This program has given me an opportunity to discover what I want to be in life and how to make that happen by selecting the right college, finding the resources to be successful in college, and learning how to lead and work with others.”

The week also brought the participants together, the student said.

“It was challenging to start out not knowing each other, but then we connected and came to understand everyone’s unique perspective,” explained the student.

The youth also received support from current college students who serve as mentors for the program throughout their stay.

“This was a unique opportunity to work with a whole new demographic of youth,” said Jessica Keever, a fourth year industrial organization psychology major at UGA. “As a psychology major, I know there is power in understanding other people’s experiences.  I really enjoyed pouring into these kids and getting back so much more than I gave.”

Supported with funds from the nsoro Educational Foundation, the College Bound program at UGA has served as a model for other schools.

“We are grateful for the nsoro Educational Foundation’s commitment to helping these students discover and unlock their full potential,” said Meyers.

In Georgia, Kennesaw State University, Savannah State University, Clark Atlanta University, and Albany State University have all replicated the College Bound program in recent years, and more schools are investigating starting one.