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A closing ceremony and celebration ends Elon Academy’s summer program

High school scholars in Elon University’s college access and success program gave short presentations to family and friends before participating in a ceremony celebrating their successes.

There are 65 scholars who make up the Theta, Iota and Kappa classes of Elon Academy. 

Josue Alonso Dionicio was in the 8th grade when a lecture from his homeroom teacher changed the course of his life. It was that day that he discovered he was failing both himself and his parents.

“My parents sacrificed so much of their time, resources and hard work that it would be unfair to let their efforts be in vain,” said Alonso Dioncio Friday in Whitley Auditorium during a closing ceremony and celebration that officially ended the ninth summer of Elon Academy.

Alonso Dioncio read the essay he wrote, titled “Failure,” to the family and friends of the 65 scholars who make up the college access and success program’s Theta, Iota and Kappa classes. In the essay, he explained what has become of his life since that day in eighth grade when he decided he was “college bound.”

Alonso Dioncio was accepted into the Elon Academy, made the best possible score on an end-of-year English exam, has remained in the top 10 of his class since his freshman year, became a junior marshal, earned medals in wrestling, worked on two research projects and held two leadership positions this past summer.

“I went out to catch up where I left off, which looking back at it was pretty close to the bottom,” he said. “But no worries for I will not quit. I’ve worked too hard to give up. Whatever I become, I will be a good one.”

For many of the scholars, participating in Elon Academy helped them move out of their comfort zones and into what Terrry Tomasek, academy director, refers to as "courage zones."

He finished with these parting words to his Elon Academy classmates: “Thetas, Iotas, Kappas, whatever you are, be a good one” and they erupted into a thunderous applause.

The evening began with students giving short presentations in small groups in Alamance building. Kappas, the youngest scholars in the group, spoke about what it would take for them to become “highly effective” students and outlined the steps they would follow to get there. Iotas, who are rising sophomores, described their biggest obstacles thus far and how they’ve overcome them. Thetas shared the essays they will use this fall as they begin the process of applying to colleges during their senior year.

Keeley McDonald’s essay focused on race relations, the power of fear and her hope for a brighter future.

“We cannot become one nation under God with liberty and justice for all without trust,” McDonald said. “But with trust we can become more than a nation. We can become a family full of different cultures, beliefs, views and skin colors. All I wish is that I could be treated as part of this society, rather than the enemy of society. I am not violent, a thug or thoughtless. What I am is human.”

The evening also included a step routine performed by the Elon Academy Steppers, a slideshow of memories from the summer, a tribute from lead mentors, Lorenzo Davis and Ciera Martinez, as well as remarks from Terry Tomasek, Elon Academy director, and Katie LaPlante, assistant director.

Prior to the closing ceremony, scholars participated in "Presentations of Learning" and read essays they wrote.

Tomasek spoke highly of all three classes, knowing they all ventured out of their comfort zones and into what she referred to as their “courage zones.” She said a total of 95 percent of the Theta class has remained in the program from the beginning, setting a new record since Elon University launched Elon Academy in 2007.

Tomasek told the students to be persistent and encouraged each of them to write their own success stories. “You have the skills,” she said. “You have the talent. You just need to decide what it’s going to be and reach for it. We believe in you and want to help support your efforts.”

Elon Academy is designed for local high school students with high financial need or no family history of college attendance. It combines a month-long residential program over three successive summers with follow-up experiences during the academic year. Students begin the program the summer after ninth grade and continue to and through college.

For more information about Elon Academy, visit www.elonacademy.com.


Roselee Papandrea Taylor,
7/10/2015 10:15 PM