Illinois 4-H is proud to offer this hi-fidelity college exploratory experience on the University of Illinois campus held biennially. Participants attend academy sessions led by university professors and enjoy a variety of engaging activities that provide a taste of just how cool college life can be. Imagine getting to work alongside university professors while you’re still in HIGH SCHOOL!

Illini Summer Academies (ISA) - Registration is open!


Registration is open now on ZSuite! You will need to create a ZSuite profile to access it. Learn how here. 

Illinois 4-H is proud to offer this hi-fidelity college exploratory experience on the University of Illinois campus. Participants attend academy sessions led by university professors and enjoy a variety of engaging activities that provide a taste of just how cool college life can be. Imagine getting to work alongside university professors while you’re still in HIGH SCHOOL! Imagine spending four days with kids your age from all across Illinois. That’s what happens at Illini Summer Academies, so stop imagining it and just do it! This program offers teens the opportunity to explore various degree programs of University of Illinois and learn of potential careers associated with those degrees. Illini Summer Academies is supported through the Illinois 4-H Foundation and intended to serve youth living in Illinois. Space for each academy is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Many academies reach capacity before the registration closes so don’t delay in registering. Scroll down to view the descriptions of each academy. 

This event is open to all Illinois youth 10-12th grade. 

Date: June 25-29, 2023

DEADLINE TO REGISTER: April 14, 2023    Early registration is encourage as several academies tend to reach the max number of participants before the registration closes.
Location: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Event staff and participants will stay in Bousfield Hall. Check-in at ISA Headquarters Bousfield Hall, 1214 South First Street, Champaign, IL

Cost and What Registration Fees Cover: Registration fee for this event is dependent upon the supplies and activities associated with the academy you choose. Registration fee covers 4 nights lodging in a suite style dorm room, all meals, entry fees for all activities, event t-shirt,  general ISA supplies, plus expenses for the experiences and supplies needed during your sessions at your academy. Each academy is doing different activities so the cost varies. Scroll down to view the academy descriptions for this year.

Registration is open now on ZSuite! You will need to create a ZSuite profile to access it. Learn how here. 

Roommates: You may list a preferred roommate on the online registration form. Every effort is made to keep preferred roommates together. Bring a friend along with you and room in a college dorm together! 

Bousfield Hall Dorms: Dorms are suite style so you will only share a bathroom with 2 or 3 others in your suite. 

SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: Participants who need financial assistance to attend may apply for scholarships following the links below.

  • Food Action Scholarship  For participants interested in Food Science specific academies
  • Trailblazers Scholarship  Illinois 4-H offers the Trailblazers Scholarship to make college exploratory experiences accessible to all youth. This scholarship encourages participation of scholars who are under-represented in certain career fields and who may find the cost of attendance to exploratory programs a significant challenge: Trailblazers scholarship has extended its deadline indefinitely. Please ignore the February 28th deadline. 


Refunds must be received in writing to Jenna Girman, Requests received by 5:00 PM on or before April 25, 2023 will receive a refund minus a 5% credit card fee. No refunds will be given after April 25, 2023. Counties are allowed to send a substitute of the same gender to this event, but must notify Jenna Girman regarding the substitution. 


The required Emergency Medical Form is incorporated into this online registration form. No need to submit a hard copy. Other required forms (Risk Waiver and Overnight conduct forms) can be completed during online registration as well.


Chaperones must be fully screened volunteers. Those wanting to chaperone this event but are not screened should contact their local Extension office to begin that process as soon as possible due to the lengthy time to get screening results returned. Chaperones can apply by clicking the link here. Chaperones must be fully screened volunteers. Those wanting to be a conference chaperone or a changemaker mentor but are not screened should contact their local Extension office to begin that process as soon as possible due to the lengthy time to get screening results returned. (Potential chaperones will register on a separate form). 

* AccommodationsIf you need a reasonable accommodation to participate, please contact the event coordinator. Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time to meet your needs.

Conference Director: Cindy Ogwal

Conference Event Coordinator: Jenna Girman

Contact us at 


2023 Academy Host Descriptions

There are limitations to the number of participants that can register within each academy. Once a specific academy fills up, we will be closing registration for that academy. 

Electrical and Computer Engineering 

We introduce, circuits, Algorithms, optics/photonics, Audio processing, and power/energy through interactive lessons. Lessons introduce how: to design and conduct experiments, to use control theory to make machines do what we want, the power grid operates, and basic circuits and optical elements work. Related Careers Project Engineer (Digital Energy, GE Energy) System Verification Engineer (Bio-Rad Laboratories) Design Engineer (Northrop Grumman)Entrepreneur (Co-founder of a Startup) & Incubation Sourcing Manager (Microsoft) Flow Meter Marketing (Smart Grid, Texas Instruments)Systems Engineer (Bombardier Transportation) Technology Analyst (Goldman Sachs) Software Architect (Google working on challenging large-scale distributed applications) GPU architect (NVIDIA working on energy-efficient, high-performance graphics processors) Partner (Hanley, Flight & Zimmerman, LLC Intellectual Property Law) Software Developer (Microsoft working on Windows operating system) Microprocessor Architect (Intelworking on server microprocessors for cloud services) Research Staff Member (IBM, working on revolutionary DRAM architecture for future processors) Senior Software Engineer (Apple working on dynamic compilers for iOS applications) Professor (University conducting world-class research and teaching activities) Host College: Engineering Host Department: Electrical and Computer Engineering. 

Cost: $700   


The Science of Food Security

What are plant scientists at the University of Illinois doing to help combat climate change and address food security? In this academy, you will work together with a team of researchers in Crop Sciences to discover what the future of food looks like in Illinois and beyond. If you're wanting to strengthen your knowledge of plant science, food security, and local food production, this is the academy for you! Host College: ACES Host Department: Crop Sciences 

Cost:  $450 


Work Hard, Play Hard 

Interested in health and wellness? Does a career as a doctor, physician assistant, physical therapist, occupational therapist, athletic trainer, physical educator, nurse, dentist, audiologist, speech language pathologist, sport administrator, park and recreation manager, event planner, or tourism destination marketer intrigue you? If so, this is the academy for you! You will learn about exciting health careers and research in the areas of community health, kinesiology, speech and hearing sciences, interdisciplinary health sciences, and recreation, sport and tourism. Activities include participating in cutting edge research laboratories and technology, administering CPR, applying a tourniquet, talking with Illinois graduates, developing leadership skills, visiting innovative campus sites, and working with Illini Service Dogs. Related Careers: doctor, physician assistant, physical therapist, occupational therapist, athletic trainer, physical educator, nurse, dentist, audiologist, speech language pathologist, sport administrator, park and recreation manager, event planner, tourism destination marketer

Host College: College of Applied Health Sciences Host Department: College of Applied Health Sciences  

Cost: $465  


Narrative Design and Video Game Development with GDevelop

Have you ever wanted to design and program your own video game? Come join us and learn some of the basics with GDevelop, an open source game development software. Dip into some of the narrative, gameplay, and level design that goes into games. This academy will introduce you to both the theoretical and practical aspects of game development for role-playing games. Prerequisite: Working computer knowledge, including basic keyboarding and mouse skills. 

Host College: iSchool of Information Sciences  Host Department: Informatics - Game Studies and Design 

Cost: $600 


Veterinary Medicine 

Are you interested in animals, medicine, ER and science? Do you like helping people? Do you like unraveling mysteries? Do you like real challenges? If you answered yes to these questions, then the wide world of veterinary medicine just may be for you. Veterinarians have a strong interest and ability in science. They enjoy working with people as well as with animals. Take a step into the world of veterinary medicine and see what veterinary school is like, learn about the different aspects of veterinary medicine, and more. Participants in the veterinary medicine academy will learn about the science of veterinary medicine, anatomy, immunology, public health, wildlife medicine, large and small animal medicine, and more. Participants will participate in clinical equine rounds, dissect owl pellets, learn about veterinary specialty fields such as surgery, pathology, disease outbreak, and so much more. Open to youth who have completed at least their 10th grade of high school by the time of the Academy. No repeat attendeesHost College: Veterinary Medicine, Host Department: Office of Public Engagement. 

Cost: $550  


Molecular and Cellular Biology 

Do you sometimes wonder "how do living things work, what is a cell and how does it function, or what are genes and what do they do?" By asking these questions, you are inquiring about the fundamental cellular processes that are at work in every one of us, and starting on the same path as researchers in Biological Sciences and Medicine. Join the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology to fulfill your curiosity and start exploring the marvelous complexities and inner workings of the cell. Delegates will manipulate cells and their building blocks, using modern research laboratory techniques, while learning about the latest scientific discoveries that allow MCB researchers to discover answers to the above questions. We will spend time working on: The effects of UV light on a bacterial population, how to insert a gene of interest into a population of bacteria, how to extract their own DNA, Blood Typing, The eukaryotic cell, and Enzyme Biochemistry. Delegates will also have the opportunity to tour a research laboratory, learn about the research being done, and meet the scientists. Related Careers: Career Opportunities: Molecular Biologist, Cellular Biologist, Research Specialist, Medical Fields, Biotechnology, Pharmaceuticals, Forensic Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Disease Control, Food Safety, Healthcare, Policy or Law, Agriculture, Wildlife Management Host College: LAS Host Department: MCB 

Cost: $600


Animal Sciences 

Join us for a week all about Animal Sciences. We will explore a variety of different topics from nutrition to medicine, and even get our hands dirty working with variety of different animals from cows to dogs and possibly even wildlife. Related Careers Animal Nutritionist Veterinarian Neuroscientist Animal Behaviorist Animal Care Technician Production Livestock Specialist Animal Researcher Host College: ACES Host Department: Department of Animal Sciences

Cost: $550 


Food Advocacy and Leadership 

Do you want to make a difference in your neighborhood and create more food security in your community? This academy will teach you the skills and mindsets you need to be a more effective leader and support you in taking your next steps in creating real change. This academy will offer youth an opportunity to strengthen their leadership, communication, and advocacy skills while developing a more comprehensive understanding of food access, food security, and food justice issues in their communities. Students will investigate the connection between food and culture, define their relationship to food systems and then apply their understanding in the form of an action planning process. Prerequisite We're looking for students that have experience with leadership in areas of Agri science, community service, food security, or food justice. Previous leadership experience is preferred but not required. Related Careers Non-profit advocacy/outreach Academic Research Governmental Policy Food Policy School Policy Food Production Host College: ACES Host Department Crop Science 

Cost: $450   


Community Health Workers 

Public health concerns such as increased gun violence and higher rates of COVID-19 deaths continue to disproportionately impact Black and Latinx communities throughout the United States. These health disparities highlight an urgent need for citizen (community) scientists who work with social, behavioral and life scientists to produce new human-centered, community-based and interdisciplinary knowledge about health, disease and resiliency. The Community Health Workers (CHW) academy seeks to create a culture of health and wellness centered on high school students, especially those from communities affected by health disparities. Participants will explore different academic and professional pathways to support diverse communities in addressing and healing from racial trauma. Students will also have an opportunity to combine high- and low-tech tools with science-based approaches to help design products for our Wellness Store. Related Careers Participants will learn about exciting health careers and research in the areas of CHW, public health professionals such as health educators, communicators and graphic medicine; and health professions such as medicine, researchers, biomedical, chemistry. Host College: College of Applied Health Sciences and Carle Illinois College of Medicine Host Department: Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, Department of Biomedical and Translational Sciences 

Cost: $600 


Business Academy 

Are you interested in Finance, Accountancy, Management? If so, this Academy is for you! Participants will learn the effects of personal and professional investments, while exploring different business careers that will help you start building your professional toolkit for a variety of career and education pathways. Participants must have access to Microsoft suite—specifically Word and Excel. Host College Gies College of Business, Host Department Office of Undergraduate Affairs. 

Cost $450  


Field to Fork: Exploration of Local Food Career Pathways 

Have you ever wondered about where your food comes from and how it ends up on your plate? Who does this work and who makes decisions that impact how we eat? As ways of growing, processing, selling, preparing, and consuming food continue to evolve, knowledgeable professionals are needed to address new challenges and work with communities to solve problems. In this academy, students will have opportunities to explore local farms, community markets, and campus facilities. Get the whole field to fork experience from Hendrick House Farm where they grow produce used in Hendrick House dining hall. Visit the food processing pilot plant where new foods are developed. Then, explore food service operations at Hendrick House and Bevier Hall where students on campus eat. At the end of the academy, students will be able to take the ServSafe exam and earn their certified food protection manager credential, which can be useful for finding a job in the food industry. Prerequisite Students should have an interest in different aspects of local food systems and a desire to explore career pathways that support the development and sustainability of these systems. Related Careers Farmers Food Processors, Food Scientists, Hospitality Managers, Foodservice Professionals, Food Retailers Nutritionists, Dietitians. Host College: College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Host Department: Extension 4-H/Family and Consumer Sciences; Food Science and Human Nutrition 

Cost: $550  


Engineering Technology in Crop, Animal, and Food Production

Join us for excursions to the ABE Farm, robotics demonstrations, animal welfare activities, work with drones, digital agriculture exhibits, hands-on work with food processing, and safety demonstrations. Learn about and use the cutting-edge technologies being utilized and developed to help producers and processors optimize, analyze, and accomplish tasks within the development of crops, animals, and food products. Prerequisite: Rising juniors and seniors only. Host College: College of ACES and The Grainger College of Engineering  Host Department: Agricultural & Biological Engineering 

Cost: $650

Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences

Are you a fan of wildlife and ecosystems? Join us this summer for a field-based undergraduate experience exploring forests, prairie, and aquatic ecosystems and the animals that live in them. You’ll be immersed the types of research questions that can be addressed to help the environment be healthier for us all. We will plan to be outside for much of our days; please be prepared with a water bottle, close toed shoes and lightweight long pants for our explorations. Hope to see you there! Prerequisite Limited to rising Juniors & Seniors in high school 

Host College: ACES Host Department: Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences 

Cost: $525

Honeybees and Beekeeping 

Learn the biology and behaviors of honeybees and their colonies. Learn the hive equipment and tools. You will put together your own hive body. See how to set up a hive with a package of bees, see how bees work in the hive, store food, raise the brood. Learn to manage your bees and to keep them healthy. The bees are critical for pollinating some of our specialty crops and helping us have a good food supply. Learn some best management practices to preserve/increase their foraging habitats. Discover how to help them so they can continue to help us. Host College: Liberal Arts and Sciences; School of Integrated Biology Host Department: Entomology 

Cost: $550  

SLAAY: Social Issues Theater

A dynamic and empowering experience for young people looking to make a difference in their communities. This program combines elements of social issues theater, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and mental health to provide a well-rounded and transformative experience for participants. Through workshops and interactive theater exercises, young people will explore complex social issues and learn about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in creating a more just and equitable society. In addition, the program will address the importance of mental health and provide participants with tools and resources to support their well-being. With a focus on empowering young people to be active and engaged members of their communities, SLAAY: Social Issues Theater provides a safe and supportive space for young people to grow, learn, and connect with others who share their passion for creating a better world. Host College: ACES Host Department: 4-H 

Cost: $450 


We hope that you make plans to join us this summer for ISA! 


Contact for More Information:

Illini Summer Academies Director, University of Illinois Extension 4-H College and Career Readiness Specialist
Cindy Ogwal
Events Coordinator
Jenna Girman