Be a Leader at CLC
Deanna Luna

While McCallie Sports Camp has become a household name across the Southeast over the last 40 years, one of McCallie’s most innovative summer offerings is one that may not sound as familiar – CLC.

So what is CLC? 

 “Think Outward Bound meets nightly TED Talks,” says Duke Richey ’86, Howard Baker Chair of American History. Over the past 11 summers, CLC – or Character, Leadership, Community – has turned into a program that, “Boys and parents describe as life changing,” said Dr. Richey, who has served as camp director for the past seven years. 

The program brings 50 of the most talented, high-performing seventh and eighth-graders in the nation to McCallie’s campus for extensive training centered on leadership skills and service, according to David Hughes ’78, who oversees CLC recruitment. “We are looking for kids who are willing to take a risk, to step out of their comfort zones,” he said. “These are young men who will go on to attend some of the most selective colleges and universities in the nation, and for many of them, CLC represents their first opportunity to surround themselves with equally talented peers and great mentors.” 

While many summer programs for strong students focus on academic preparation, CLC takes a different approach. “We know these boys are incredibly bright and would be comfortable in a classroom at any school in the country,” said Dr. Richey. “We deliberately remove them from an academic setting and instead focus on putting them in situations where they have to rely on each other, rather than on their own intellectual ability.” 

McCallie students and alumni – many who were CLC campers themselves – serve as counselors who, “model the selfless leadership we hope to develop in these young men,” said Mr. Hughes. “They demonstrate to campers how to contribute, not just how to achieve.” He added that with a camper-to-counselor ratio of 4 to 1, “CLC offers two weeks of uninterrupted mentoring.” 

According to Dr. Richey, the typical CLC day begins with a morning service project in the community, followed by outdoor recreation, such as hiking, climbing, or caving. In the evenings, students visit with local professionals who share their stories about what makes a great leader. 

After their summer at CLC, many campers seek that year-round experience that McCallie offers boarding students. In fact, nearly 20% of McCallie’s 265 boarding students are CLC alumni, many of whom receive a merit scholarship through McCallie’s Michaels-Dickson Scholars Program. 

Because all admitted CLC applicants receive a full scholarship to cover the cost of camp, the camp attracts an incredibly diverse group of young men to the Ridge. And as the camp leaders would tell you, that diversity is one of the key ingredients that makes CLC such a unique summer experience. In addition to hailing from Tennessee and neighboring states, campers have come from some the biggest cities in the U.S. like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Dallas, as well as small towns in Montana, Michigan, Oregon, and South Dakota. 

Only 25 boys receive admission for each of two sessions. CLC selects campers who have demonstrated outstanding academic ability and strong leadership potential, and they pay careful attention to ensure that very few, if any, boys know each other prior to camp. “Boys get to come to camp untethered from their reputation at home,” Mr. Hughes said. Every camper is extremely talented, and through careful guidance and mentoring from counselors, they learn that they can achieve more when they work together instead of trying to outdo each other. 

“If the only thing they learn at camp is that ‘We’ is greater than ‘I’, that means we’ve done our job.”

Do you know a young man in your community who stands out not only as a top academic student, but also as a potential leader? If so, we would love for you to nominate him for CLC! This unique summer leadership camp can open a world of opportunities for young men. Please note that applicants must be current 7th or 8th graders. You can learn more about camp or nominate a candidate by contacting David Hughes at or 423-493-5628.