University of South Florida


students in photojournalism camp take and compare photos

C.A.G.E. Elementary CyberCamp students use tablets to learn coding. 

Record number of summer campers flock to USF’s campuses

a student aims a fire extinguisher at a contained flame

A student in Disaster Camp practices extinguishing a fire.

By Donna Smith, University Communications and Marketing

Across USF’s campuses, K-12 students on holiday can be seen conducting mock trials, flying drones, studying oceanography and much more. While it may appear to be just summer fun, many camps offer a peek at career options and serve as the first point of contact at USF for future Bulls.

Amy Tenbig’s daughter, Reagan, is part of a biomedical science program at her high school in Pasco County. Tenbig said she signed her up for USF’s Biomedical Engineering camp so that she can learn more about the potential career field on a college campus.

“I’m excited that she can come here and get an immersive experience,” Tenbig said. “I hope she loves being on the USF campus and decides she wants to go to college here.”

a campus policeman shows a camper the inside of his cruiser

A police officer shows a Disaster camper his cruiser.

There has been unprecedented growth in USF’s summer camp offerings since it established the Office of Youth Experiences two years ago, with significant increases in the number of camps – more than 60 are offered this summer – and with more than 1,000 student currently enrolled, double the number of participants from last year. According to Caryn Preston, assistant director of USF’s Office of Youth Experiences, registration will stay open through July for the later camps, so they anticipate having even more campers enrolled by the end of the summer.

 “Our 2024 summer camps have been a tremendous success, and we predict continued growth as we collaborate with additional USF departments and colleges to join partners that already include the Muma College of Business and the College of Public Health,” Preston said. “As our Tampa Bay community becomes more familiar with the USF Youth Experiences mission of bridging USF with families and children, we anticipate expanding camp opportunities across our three campuses.”

Two of the most popular camps this summer are the Biomedical Engineering camp, which was developed in collaboration with the College of Engineering to provide high school students the opportunity to explore a potential career through hands-on learning. Justice Quest, a camp for grades 8-12, delves into criminology and provides a glimpse inside the justice system. Both camps sold out so quickly, a new session was added to each.

Niayathi and Reagan smile at the camera

Niayathi Muralidher (left) and Reagan Tenbig attended the Biomedical Sciences camp for career exploration. 

Niayathi Muralidher, a rising junior at Academy at the Lakes in Land O’ Lakes, says she chose to attend the Biomedical Engineering camp because she’s interested in a career in the biomedical industry.

“Both of my parents are software engineers, and they wanted to be doctors. I’m excited to learn more about a career in biomed this week because it takes aspects of both medicine and computer science,” Muralidher said.

Also popular are the cybersecurity camps, which cater to different educational levels, providing age-appropriate activities that range from basic online safety for elementary school students to High School CyberCon, which immerses students in advanced system security competitions for middle and high school students, possibly sparking an interest in a lucrative and burgeoning career field. Operated in partnership with Cyber Florida, the camp introduces students to USF faculty, students and industry professionals from companies such as Citibank, Microsoft and ReliaQuest, offering a conference-style experience with multiple tracks and breakout sessions.

a teacher speaks to a group of campers

Elementary CyberCamp instructor Andrea Marshall leads campers through an activity.

“We believe that the long-term solution to our national cybersecurity workforce shortage must begin with getting kids excited about cybersecurity and raising their awareness of careers in that field,” said James Welsh, director of USF Innovative Education’s Florida Center for Instructional Technology. “This camp places high school students who are thinking about their next steps right alongside college students, faculty and industry people working in lots of different roles within cybersecurity.”

Welsh said this particular camp could be a great entrée to USF’s new College of Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity and Computing, which is expected to debut in fall 2025.

“I’m excited about the new college because I think it will be a good way to crystallize that area of work across our campuses, beginning with our camps that tie in to those subjects,” Welsh said.

  • Cadence Adams gets a close-up shot of a rose during her week at Photojournalism camp at USF's Tampa campus.

  • Disaster campers learn CPR.

  • Biomedical Science campers learn about conductivity.

  • A Photojournalism camp student takes a photo.

Since summer camps are often a student’s first point of contact with the university, just being on the campuses can demystify college life for students who may one day be the first in their families to attend college.

"Our camps for K-12 students provide invaluable hands-on experience in various career paths and a glimpse into life as a Bull,” Preston said. “We want kids and their parents to see USF as an integral part of their community, not just a place behind a fence. That starts with kids experiencing USF every summer, on field trips or through interactions with our faculty and staff. It's about making USF a part of their lives and their future."

More information about camp availability this summer can be found here.

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