YDL Students and Alum Impact Clemson Summer Scholar’s Program

September 9, 2022

Summer Scholars is an academic summer camp for middle and high school students to experience life on Clemson campus as they start to think about the future prospect of attending college. While in the program, the students stay in residence halls, explore the campus and facilities, and take part in engaging courses that provide an insight into what it’s like to study at Clemson.

This year summer, one Youth Development Leadership (YDL) Master’s alumni and two current students are working in the program: Donna Buss (currently enrolled) is the Administrative Coordinator, Lacey Edgerton (class of 2022-currently enrolled) is the Director, and Leslie Heffington (class of, 2019 and current Ph.D. student), has a part-time role as Graduate Assistant.

With Donna and Lacey in management positions and Leslie working closely with the camp counselors, this year’s Summer Scholars policy and practices were directly informed by content taught through the YDL course. Here’s what Donna, Leslie, and Lacey felt the participation in YDL Master’s impacted their work this summer.

Making Changes to Summer Scholar’s Inclusion and Diversity policy – Donna Buss

Donna Buss photo.

I feel incredibly fortunate to work at Clemson University, where I can continue my education and work full time. Since beginning the YDL master’s program in Fall 2021, I have applied every paper and project to Summer Scholars. In one of the Master’s modules, we were tasked with creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan for our current program. I took this opportunity to make changes to the Summer Scholar’s inclusion and diversity policy; here’s a part of the plan that was implemented:

Summer Scholars believes in the dignity and the intrinsic worth of every human being. We welcome, affirm, and support young people of all abilities, experiences, races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, religion and non-religion, citizenship and immigration status, and any other category people use to define themselves or others.

We strive to become an increasingly inclusive and welcoming environment for our community, strongly affirming the value of inclusivity in all areas of camp life and culture. Summer Scholars encourages meaningful participation, and when we stumble, because sometimes we are not sensitive, we are committed to learn, invest, and reflect more deeply into the values we strive to uphold. As a community, we know that an important aspect of inclusion is continually reflecting and evolving as we go. You are always encouraged to communicate with us if you have concerns.

Working Hands-On With Camp Counselors– Leslie Heffington

Leslie Heffington photo.

This summer, a lot of my focus has been behind the scenes with Summer Scholars, but I have used information from the YDL program in my interactions with staff. When I was enrolled in the YDL program, I particularly enjoyed the classes that focused on staff management and leadership. I think in the camp setting, we must look at what motivates our counselors to do their jobs. They work long hours, often have minimal time off, and are somewhat disconnected from their friends and family outside camp. The leadership team must make sure these counselors have the support and resources necessary to do their jobs effectively. Creating a positive camp culture and compassionate environment for counselors is essential to the success of any camp program. Without the counselors, camp wouldn’t exist!  At Summer Scholars, we have been lucky to use the strategies and techniques presented to us in the YDL program to try and set up our counselors for success.

Supporting Underserved Students and Developing a Program Evaluation Plan – Lacey Edgerton

Lacey Hennessey photo.

As a student of the Youth Development Leadership Master’s program, I have enjoyed taking the content that I have learned in my courses and applying it to the Summer Scholars program. At the start of my role with the Summer Scholars Program, there were two major additions I wanted to add to program operations—financial assistance for underserved students to attend camp and an enhanced outcomes evaluation plan for both campers and counselors. Two courses within the YDL program have given me the knowledge and tools necessary to implement these additions, Grantsmanship and Assessment and Evaluation of Youth Programs.

One of the goals of Summer Scholars is to increase college awareness and postsecondary education attendance, and we hope to increase this affinity for college among underserved students. We hope that through grants, we will have the financial means to provide scholarships for students to attend camp who otherwise may not receive that opportunity, introducing them to higher education both academically and socially.

Within Summer Scholars, we focus on the development of not only campers but also our counselors. Now that I have my first year under my belt, I hope to take the information I learned from Assessments and Evaluations to create an ongoing outcomes evaluation plan that allows us to continue to grow our reach and impact with both our campers and counselors, cultivating an environment and program rich in positive youth development.


We are delighted with how Donna, Leslie, and Lacey applied what they learned through the YDL Master’s program and had such a positive impact on the local community. If you want to gain applied and management skills to thrive in the field of youth development, check out our online Master’s of Science degree in Youth Development Leadership (YDL) (36 credit hours, 12 courses, 2 years) and our Graduate Certificate in YDL (15 credit hours, 5 courses) – or email