USF Youth Experiences

USF Youth Experiences

Lorie Briggs |  July 6, 2023 |  USF Innovative Education

Ciphers, and code words and cyber camp. 

Scavenger hunts for inventors, storyboards, and digital cameras, and robots.

Baseball bats, poetry, and an animated playground created by Apple.

These are a few of the dozens of tools used to captivate the imaginations of K-12 students at USF. 

These camps combine fun and learning with unique opportunities for personal growth and discovery. They also underscore USF's commitment to lifelong learning education and community engagement. High schoolers get a chance to envision themselves as future USF Bulls, participating in a variety of day camps or overnight camps in USF residence halls.

Summer Camp

Sea Stars Camp with Environmental Engineering professor Dr. Daniel Yeh.

“We have dozens of camps running from June to August across the university and we will serve nearly 550 young people in the enrichment camps that this office supports alone,” said Caryn Preston, assistant director for the Office of Youth Experiences. “There is an amazing array of offerings.”

Some of them are long-standing experiences, such as the baseball, cheerleading, and soccer camps that USF Athletics and student-athletes spearhead, according to Preston. Others are academically oriented and might introduce youth to future career fields.

“Many of USF’s colleges work with us to plan and offer camps,” said Preston. “We’re introducing them to disciplines like science, business, music, and education, subjects brought to life through interactive experiences, expanding the horizons of students who may not have encountered these subjects in their regular school curriculum.”

The Youth Experiences team gives elementary students an exceptional summer adventure. From digital scavenger hunts to creating code words and cracking cyphers, over 300 students have already participated in these engaging camps, with more exciting programs on the horizon in July and August.

For example, at the C.A.G.E. Elementary Cyber camps in early June, 30 kids learned how to create and crack ciphers, participated in an escape room project – and learned about cybersecurity, how hackers compromise systems, the importance of strong passwords, and online safety in the process. The high-intensity camp also provided an opportunity for future teachers to help operate the camp alongside seasoned educators. 

In the Muma College of Business, nearly two dozen aspiring high school entrepreneurs learned first-hand what it takes to grow a budding business idea from infancy to prototype — in the span of three days. The pilot program is designed to introduce entrepreneurial skills to the next generation of business builders. Participants already had ideas. One wants to help his mom open a nail salon. Another dreamed of bottling perfume reminiscent of her home country, Bangladesh, and bringing it to market. A third wants to launch a drone delivery service.

YXP with President

President Rhea Law visiting the the Youth Venture camp.

This weekend, two dozen students will head to the Sarasota-Manatee campus to participate in mock trials in a camp hosted by the Judy Genshaft Honors College. High school students will learn about courtroom procedures, decorum and proper handling of evidence. They will be coached in debate by a renowned debate and mock trial coach. The culminating project is a mock trial exhibition at Stetson Law school’s teaching courtrooms on Saturday. 

Whether it's delving into the exciting world of STEM with robotics and coding or exploring the realms of creativity through writing and theater, students have the chance to pursue their passions while gaining valuable skills. The hands-on, interactive nature of the camps promotes critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration.

“Summer camps help foster a love for learning among young people and give us a chance to build relationships with them from a young age,” said Preston. She emphasized the significant impact of these camps in building relationships with students and showcasing the work of USF's colleges in the K-12 space. 

“As interest in the program continues to grow, more faculty and colleges are reaching out to collaborate, promising an even broader range of camps for the future,” she said, pointing out that they expect to work with more than two dozen departments or college next year. 

View a complete list of academic summer camps here. To partner with the Youth Experiences program for a 2024 summer camp, contact Preston at

Check out this slideshow of camps offered this summer!