Elon's community connections shine through as President Connie Ledoux Book visits local elementary schools
Book, who began her term as Elon's ninth president on March 1, visited Newlin Elementary School and Eastlawn Elementary School where she met with students, teachers and staff.
During March 2 visits to Newlin and Eastlawn elementary schools in Burlington, President Connie Ledoux Book got a chance to learn more about the partnerships Elon has with the local community and the Alamance-Burlington School System.
She talked with Elon alumni leading classrooms and teaching students, and sat down with an Elon senior now participating in a social work internship in the school system. She met children who benefit from Elon's "It Takes a Village" project, a literacy and student support program in the university's Center for Access and Success, and heard from others who hope to attend Elon one day.
"I would love to have every classroom have someone from Elon in it," said Dan McInnis, principal at Eastlawn Elementary School. "I think the partnership between Elon and the local schools really keeps Elon students connected to the community."
Book's visits to the local elementary schools on her second day as Elon's president offered an opportunity to walk the halls of two schools that have long-standing relationships with the university. Book and those she met with emphasized that these types of partnerships are mutually beneficial, and are critical to Elon's role within the broader local community.
Students in Elon's School of Education spend hours as student teachers in the Alamance-Burlington School System, and Elon's "It Takes a Village" project pairs Elon faculty, staff and students with elementary students who are struggling to read while also offering support to their parents. The Elon Academy helps prepare Alamance County students for the college selection and application process and supports them as they begin pursuing college degrees.
"I think it's very important that we lift each other up," Book told a group at Newlin Elementary School, where she received a guided tour from fifth graders Diana Mena and Ashley Sosa.
During that tour, Book and Marna Winter, lecturer and chair in the Department of Education, caught up with Emma Lindsay '16, who spent time as a student teacher at Newlin and returned to the school last year as a special education teacher. "Three of us did our student teaching here, and we've come back," Lindsay told Book and Winter.
Book later sat down with students who are part of the school's Lighthouse leadership group as well as Principal Larry Conte and Angie Funari '14, with Conte noting that Funari's "sense of service comes from Elon."
Funari said she is inspired by the phenomenal students that she works with each day at Newlin. Book said she loves seeing a teacher changing people's lives. "There's nothing more powerful and personally gratifying than helping someone else," Book said.
At Eastlawn, Book sat down with students in Ernestine Holman's pre-K class and read Dr. Seuss's "The Cat in the Hat" to students who were celebrating Read Across America Week. Later, a third grader walked her through the accomplishments that she's been making in reading and mathematics during the school year, achievements documented in the student's data notebook that she uses to share what she's doing with her parents.
Samantha Perry '18, a Lumen Scholar and human service studies major, took a few minutes from her work at Eastlawn completing her senior internship as a human service studies major to talk about what has drawn her to this type of service. She noted that her work with the "It Takes a Village" project as a sophomore was her first opportunity to work with students at Eastlawn, and made an impact on her studies at Elon. She now plans to pursue a graduate degree in social work at the University of Chicago after graduation.
At Eastlawn, she's supporting struggling students and helping them learn strategies to calm down during emotional or stressful times. She is also working on the development of a community garden that, with time, will produce vegetables that can be shared with school families or sold to generate funds for the school.