For the next three days, UCF will host 50 students from urban schools in the Orlando area as part of a camp meant to expose them to a college experience.

University of Central Florida alumnus Bobby Lyons for many years has been organizing the mini summer camp for teens and pre-teens who participate in his Young Men of Promise program.

The nonprofit organization that he started provides mentoring for middle and high school boys, with a focus on leadership development, academic enhancement, social responsibility, community service and school pride.

The annual stay at UCF is a highlight.

“I try to show them there are opportunities,” Lyons said. “The more you can exposes a kid to college and the world, the opportunity they have,” Lyons said.

Participants will be on campus through Sunday, and stay in university housing. They’ll tour campus and learn about what college has to offer.

“He puts them in an academic setting. That gives them a sense of what campus life can be all about, and it motivates them to go back and do the best they can in school,” said Melvin Rogers, associate dean of personnel and student affairs for the College of Health and Public Affairs.

COHPA coordinates the camp, and Rogers has long worked with Lyons to line up speakers and organize other details.

Faculty and administrators from COHPA brief participants on the various majors and careers available to them. They’ll hear from other speakers, as well, including Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, Wayne Jackson, director of UCF Multicultural and Academic Support Services, and others.

When Rogers talks to the participants, he discusses the need to prepare for college before it’s too late: “College prep, in their case, starts in middle school.”

Lyons recruits kids between the ages of 11 and 17 from 10 participating schools. Some start as early as the 7th grade, and he encourages them to stay in through the 11th grade. An estimated 2,500 students have gone through the program, Lyons said.

“He really tries to give the children an opportunity, and to learn about being a leader,” Rogers said.

There’s an advantage for UCF, too, Rogers said. Many minority students in the region who contemplate college don’t consider UCF as an option, and instead apply only to historically black colleges such as Florida A&M University, Bethune-Cookman University and Edward Waters College. It’s in UCF’s best interest to raise the university’s profile among minority students, he said.

“I want them to be future Knights. I want them here,” Rogers said.