Honors Fellows strengthen community through service
Elon University students participated in a January service project at the North Carolina Arboretum where they constructed natural shelters, built stick looms, and prepared children’s garden and craft activity areas, among other assignments.
Elon Honors Fellows kicked off the first weekend of Winter Term with a service trip to Asheville, North Carolina, to improve environmental education in the state and build community within their program.
Students partnered with the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville to help encourage young people to learn about their natural environments. Projects based out of the Arboretum’s Education Center included manual labor—such as cleaning outdoor spaces and clearing debris—as well as environmental education activities like constructing natural shelters, building stick looms, and preparing children’s garden and craft activity areas designed to encourage hands-on learning about nature and the environment.
“It was an amazing experience to work at the North Carolina Arboretum and give back to the Earth," said first-year student Kristen O'Neill.
Honors student Will Tracy said he agreed, noting how the group bonded through service. "The strengthening of a community takes place most strongly when people share a common goal or experience,” Tracy said. “And the Honors Fellows retreat provided that opportunity fully through service and time in nature."
A Residential Campus Innovation Support grant helped fund the experience. The mission of the Residential Campus Initiative is “to integrate academic and residential experiences in order to further students’ intellectual, personal, and community development as lifelong learners and responsible global citizens.”
Students participating in the trip were able to practice active citizenship in a shared community, while fostering opportunities for community-building, bonding and academic engagement.
Honors Fellows Community Director Jacquelyn Lanphear organized a committee of Honors Fellows to handle all trip logistics, including travel, lodging, food, service, and social activities. Committee members included Cas Levy, Claire Lockard, Becca Foley, Regina Mendoza, Mariatu Okonofua and Julianne Papadopoulos.
“It was great to see the first-year Honors students take ownership of aspects of the trip and plan the trip for other first-year students,” Lanphear said. “People were aware of one another and were looking for ways to help each other out.”
The staff at The North Carolina Arboretum was happy to have the energetic and creative volunteers. Students accomplished far more than expected, leaving the Arboretum in excellent shape for the next onslaught of young learners.
The following day, students hiked to the top of Lookout Mountain, continuing their enjoyment and engagement with nature. "It was really nice to get off campus and bond with our cohort,” said Anna Cosentino. “In just one weekend I feel so much closer to my classmates."
The service trip is an annual event for the Honors Program.