This year marks the 29th year of the Summer Leadership Institute at Columbia College, a rich tradition since 1990 through which more than 2,750 young women have taken their first steps to becoming successful leaders.

This year we are proud to expand our offerings to include ten unique programs serving rising 8-12th grade girls. These week-long, residential and immersive experiences provide three hours of undergraduate general education academic credit, plus a certificate and badge of completion.

2019 Summer Leadership Institute Programs

For rising 8-9th Graders

Step Up: Establish the foundation of leadership
Offered for young women excited to embrace the courage to lead, learn about personal leadership styles, and work with their peers in creative and exciting ways.

  • Dates: June 16-21
  • Faculty: Kara Simmons, M.A.
For rising 10-11th Graders

Step In: Build your leadership framework
Designed for young women ready to champion their unique talents and build a personal leadership model. Students reinforce their strengths and work together to make an impact in their community.

  • Dates: July 7-12  
  • Faculty: Kara Simmons, M.A.
For rising 10-12th Graders

NEW–The Story of Us: Journey through the Lives and Works of the Pioneers of Human Growth and Development

Through our shared experiences, we will become acquainted with the lives of such giants as Freud, Erikson, and Piaget and understand how their distinctive life choices and times shaped their thoughts on human development. Explore fields and careers that emphasize human relations and welfare such as medicine, law, social work, psychology, teaching, religion, and therapy.

  • Dates: June 16-21
  • Faculty: Dr. Joyce Fields

NEW–Hospitality Academy: Go behind the scenes, exploring South Carolina’s #1 industry, hospitality and tourism

From start-up jobs in restaurants to high-level corporate management of multimillion-dollar hotel chains, Hospitality and Tourism offers engaging, people-oriented work in picturesque surroundings. Students will refine their personal values, strengths and interests, applying them to this profession, and get the opportunity to tour country clubs, hotels and event venues, meeting leaders in the industry.

  • Dates: June 23-28, 2019
  • Faculty: Dr. Carole Sox

Serious Young Writers Academy: Hone your writing craft

Designed for young writers ready to take their writing to the next level. With personalized writing instruction, collaborative revision, visits with guest authors, and ample time to write, students will polish and publish their work, while learning tricks of the writer’s trade. 

  • Dates: June 23-28, 2019
  • Faculty: Dr. Ray McManus & Ashlynn Wittchow

NEW–The Real DEEL: Explore and practice education in unique classroom settings

The Real Diversity and Equity in Educational Leadership (DEEL) experience will focus on diversity and equity leadership in Education as participants celebrate diversity in our community through outreach, engage with cultural events around Columbia, and participate in a book club with a focus on social justice and equity.

  • Dates: June 23-28
  • Faculty: Dr. Tracy West, Dr. Brennan Davis & Whitney Chick

NEW–Dance U(nique): Explore your unique identity through dance

Centers on empowering young women to realize and celebrate artistic uniqueness and to build a confident sense-of-self, experiencing the art of dance within a creative, inclusive environment. 

  • Dates: June 23-28
  • Faculty: Marcy Jo Yonkey Clayton, MFA & Starlitt Miller

NEW–BizGirls: Turn your CEO dreams into one week!

Challenges and inspires young women’s abilities to identify problems, develop solutions, and lead change from within, while curating a set of solid business and communications skills.

  • Dates: June 23-28      
  • Faculty: Katherine Swartz Hilton, M.A. & Shennice Cleckley

NEW–TechGirls: Empower and inspire girls in STEM

Explore and learn how phones, apps, games, websites work. Design, tinker and code your own. Meet successful women in technology in a variety of careers and professions, visiting them in their workplaces.

  • Dates: July 7-12
  • Faculty: Travis Dalton, M.S.
For rising 11-12th Graders

Step Above: Become a future-ready leader

Offered for young women ready to apply leadership skills in the real world, shaping their future success in college, career, and citizenship.

  • Dates: July 7-12
  • Faculty: Katherine Swartz Hilton, M.A.

How Do I Apply?

Young women can be nominated or they may apply directly to the program. A nomination does not serve as an application and participants must complete the application before any consideration will be made. A $95 non-refundable deposit required to hold a place in the program; the deposit is deducted from the total program fee. Applicants are encouraged to apply early and may be wait listed.

Application Deadlines

March 30: Nomination Deadline.
April 30: Application Deadline. Applications require a $95 non-refundable application fee that is applied toward tuition.

How Much Does It Cost?

Tuition for each program is $595 and includes programming, room and board for the week, plus three hours of general education undergraduate credit and a certificate and badge of completion. A limited number of financial need-based scholarships are available upon request at time of application; interview required.


All applicants pay a non-refundable $95 application fee, which is applied toward the tuition. Eligible participants may apply and be selected for more than one program. Programs run from 1pm Sunday to 12pm Friday over the three weeks. Graduation ceremonies take place on Friday mornings with parent, guardian, family and partner audiences. 

Applicants who participated in 2015, 2016, 2017, or 2018 can complete a separate application with their login credentials.

Tuition Deposit Deadline

May 30: Tuition Deposit of $200 must be paid in full to secure your spot. Final balances are due at check-in the Sunday of your selected program(s). This is also the cancellation deadline to receive tuition refund. Application fees are non-refundable.

Financial Aid

Thanks to the generosity of program supporters, we have a limited amount of financial need-based scholarships that are allocated towards camp tuition. Scholarships range from $100 – $400. The amount of scholarships granted are contingent on the number of applicants that apply by deadline dates. Scholarships are awarded in two rounds, one on May 15 and another June 15. All paperwork is required for submissions before the second deadline.

To be considered for a scholarship, applicants must:

  1. Indicate you are applying for financial aid on your application.
  2. Submit the front page of your most recent Federal Income Tax Return which shows total income and number of dependents before interview.
  3. Pay the $95 non-refundable deposit fee.
  4. Complete a telephone interview.

Scholarship Application Deadline

April 15–May 15: Financial Need Based Scholarship Interviews and Awards.

Get Involved

To learn more about the programs, including how to become involved in a counselor or mentor role, please contact the Center for Leadership directly.

Katherine Swartz Hilton, Director, Center for Leadership & Co-Director, McNair Center for Entrepreneurism, at 803.470.6306 or by email at

Funding Partners


Central Carolina Community Foundation

Greenwood Women’s Leadership Council

GEAR Up program of Richland 2

The Lipscomb Family Foundation

The Nord Family Foundation

Richland County – Discretionary Grant Fund

The Self Family Foundation

TD Bank

Wells Fargo

Community Partners

Bennett School, Cali, Colombia, South America

Beta Club

City Roots

Columbia College Athletics Division and Golf Team

Columbia College Office of Admissions

Columbia College Office of Financial Aid

Columbia College Office of Advancement

Columbia College Office of Residential Life

Columbia College Police Department

Columbia Country Club

Females in Action (FIA)*

Fort Jackson Future Business Leaders of America

Girl Scouts — Mountains to Midlands Council

Girls on the Run

Habitat for Humanity — ReStore

Harvest Hope Food Bank

Jefferson Awards Foundation

Junior Achievement Junior Leadership Kershaw County

Midlands Education and Business Alliance

Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

Palmetto State School Counselors Association

Richland Library

Richland School District Two

Rotary Youth Leadership Conference

Saluda Shoals Park

SC Economics SC

United Methodist Conference

Sodexo: Columbia College Dining Services and Facilities

Transitions Center


Yoga Masala

Youth Corps