Camp Success Celebrates 20 Years

Twenty years ago, Camp Success was just an idea that originated from research. This language and literacy intervention summer program has since evolved into a “life-changing experience.” 

May 9, 2024
A Camp Success client reads a book wit two graduate student clinicians.

Twenty years ago, Camp Success was just an idea that originated from research. It has since evolved into a “life-changing experience.”

Launched in 2003 with support from the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in Waco, this language and literacy intervention summer program has impacted the lives of 1,413 children to date. 

Director of Camp Success Michaela Ritter, EdD, CCC-SLP, holder of the Martin Family Endowed Chair in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), says the relationship between oral language and reading is complex, and proficiency in one often contributes to success in the other. As a speech-language pathologist and researcher, she understands the multifaceted layers of language skills crucial for reading.  

A chance encounter between Ritter and Claude Ervin, a Scottish Rite member and Baylor University retiree, led to the realization of a shared dream to help children master language and literacy skills. Scottish Rite has a long tradition of investing in the lives of children, and Ervin understood the potential of partnering with Ritter’s research.  

Held each summer through the Baylor Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic, Camp Success provides intense intervention sessions to children who have been identified with language-based reading impairments. It focuses on improving a child’s vocabulary, sound, word and sentence structures, spelling, writing, and reading. Within the summer program’s four-week schedule, each client receives approximately 50 hours of therapy—equal to an entire year of intervention that a child might receive elsewhere. 

“I definitely didn’t understand the impact until later in my life, but that summer was crucial and formative. Before Camp Success, I remember being incredibly frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with other kids. After camp, I immediately became one of the top readers at school and began to excel academically.”

Bethany Neubert

“When many children start the program, they may have low confidence and doubt their intelligence, but then we observe a stark contrast four weeks later. Children have said to me, ‘I couldn’t even read a word and now I’m reading a sentence,’” Ritter shared. “That statement holds immense significance. When a child reads a word or sentence for the first time, it’s an incredibly exciting moment. Witnessing the child’s perspective of the world change and observing the child’s sense of accomplishment and joy is so very rewarding.”

Waco’s Scottish Rite members continue to partner with Camp Success by donating their time, resources, and funds. Beyond financial donations, many members look forward to designing the program’s T-shirts and delivering donuts each morning. At the conclusion of each summer program, Scottish Rite hosts a graduation event to proudly celebrate each child’s accomplishments.  

“It’s a fulfilling feeling that you helped someone and that you aided success in their life,” Ervin said. “Reading opens a doorway to the world. If you can read it and comprehend it, then you can visualize it—and if you can visualize what you’re reading, you can have an experience beyond your everyday life.”

Scottish Rite members speak at Baylor University's Camp Success graduation.

Since the beginning, Camp Success has been provided at zero cost to all families, regardless of their financial situation. Furthermore, in 2018, Baylor announced a $1.6 million gift from the Waco Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation, which created a permanent endowment for Camp Success. Both Ervin and Ritter agree this endowment will help ensure equitable opportunities for future generations to be served.

“We are blessed to have the support of Scottish Rite, the University, the Department, and our College,” Ritter reflected. “By Scottish Rite giving the generous endowment, this initiative will continue in perpetuity, without a doubt.” 


According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 19% of the school-age population experience a speech or language impairment, with dyslexia among the most common. Early treatment of a communication disorder can change a person’s entire world.

“We know what works, and our methodologies are firmly grounded in research. At the same time, we will continue to introduce different components of intervention to assess the impact on learning,” Ritter shared. “Our dedication to ongoing research drives us to discover the most effective ways to support children with language and reading disorders.”

To ensure an equitable enrollment process, each client receives a comprehensive speech, language, and literacy evaluation. In 2003, Camp Success enrolled just 24 children. However, its popularity grew rapidly to a maximum of 96 children enrolled and a waiting list with more than 200 names. 

Under the watchful guidance of certified faculty members, Camp Success also serves as an invaluable clinical practicum for graduate students in CSD. Students pursuing their Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders offer research-based interventions, providing clients with one-on-one sessions and group activities. The experience for novice speech-language pathologists has far-reaching significance. 

Bethany Neubert, dressed in her graduation gown stands in front of the Baylor Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic.

Bethany Neubert, a former Camp Success student clinician, claims an especially unique perspective—she actually participated in Camp Success as a client when she was eight years old. 

“I remember initially being really excited to go to ‘camp,’ and then confused when I had homework during the summer,” Neubert laughed. “I definitely didn’t understand the impact until later in my life, but that summer was crucial and formative. Before Camp Success, I remember being incredibly frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with other kids. After camp, I immediately became one of the top readers at school and began to excel academically.”

In fact, her experience inspired her eventual path to becoming a speech-language pathologist, earning both her undergraduate and graduate CSD degrees at Baylor. During Camp Success 2023, Neubert spent 12 hours each week providing direct treatment with her client, plus planning therapy sessions and attending her Baylor classes. 

“In the midst of the busyness and never-ending to-do lists, it was encouraging to remember the impact is long lasting,” Neubert shared. “I was so lucky to be the beneficiary of hours of hard work from my clinician and her supervisor, as well as countless other teachers, mentors, and parents who poured into me, helped me with my homework, and put in hours of their own time to help me succeed.”


Currently, Camp Success primarily serves children from Waco. That said, Ritter was surprised when a handful of families traveled across the country and rented living spaces simply so their child could attend. To Ritter, this underscores the greater need for access to similar intervention. She speaks at state and national conferences to share her research and program design, and over the years, other small-scaled programs have blossomed in new locations, modeled after Camp Success. 

A group of women huddle around their professor to hug her.

This coming summer, CSD will once again welcome in a new cohort of clients. Twenty years ago, neither Ritter nor Ervin imagined Camp Success would evolve into such a life-changing ministry, but it has.  

“It’s been a great example of a partnership between Scottish Rite, Baylor, and the Waco community,” Ervin stated. “It was an idea that turned into a dream, which turned into a concept, and ultimately, turned into a reality. I believe down deep in my heart that Camp Success has made an impact on our community.”