Elon Academy celebrates Theta Class
Members of the Elon Academy’s seventh class joined friends and family members May 17 to celebrate their success as they prepare for college.
Family, friends and supporters from across the Elon community gathered in a standing room-only McKinnon Hall Tuesday evening to reflect on the transformative power of the Elon Academy, the university’s college access program.
For nearly a decade, the Elon Academy has served promising high school students in Alamance County with financial need and/or no family history of college. The academy includes three consecutive summer residential experiences prior to the sophomore, junior and senior years, as well as year-round Saturday programs for students and families.
This year’s class will enroll in colleges and universities including Elon University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University and Appalachian State University. The 21 scholars in the Theta Class have so far already earned nearly $2 million in merit scholarships.
Elon University President Leo M. Lambert began the celebration by offering his congratulations to the scholars, and also to everyone who works with and supports the academy. “In the 21st century, college is essential. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise” he said. “The world is changing faster and faster. We’ll all have to pivot and respond to change. A college education will help you do that.”
The Theta Class boasts a retention rate of 95 percent for completion, the highest in the academy’s history. He offered kudos to Deborah Long, founding director of the Elon Academy and interim dean of the School of Education, for her leadership and continued commitment to the academy, its scholars and alumni.
In her remarks, Long noted that the soon-to-be first-year college students would face challenges, but to view each hardship as an opportunity. “In this life, there is one thing that no one can ever, ever, ever take away from you – your education. Once you earn it, it’s yours,” she said.
Long also thanked Elon Academy supporters including, Edna Truitt Noiles ’44 and her husband, the late Doug Noiles, whose lead gift funded the first year of the program in 1997.
Jarren Mebane, a senior at Cummings High School who will attend UNC-Charlotte in the fall, offered reflections on behalf of the Theta Class. He challenged his peers to try new things, be themselves and to lean on the lessons learned at the Elon Academy to propel them to further success. “We all have different stories and we will all use them to make us stronger,” he said.
Cazandra Rebollar, a member of the Elon Academy Delta Class and a junior at Wake Forest University, reflected on the impact of the Elon Academy a few years removed from the experience. She is one of seven Wake Forest students who are Elon Academy graduates. Rebollar is still actively involved with the academy and offered that, if scholars choose, their Elon Academy experience need not end.
“The Elon Academy will always be there when you need them,” she said.
The final speaker, Karen Rimmer, is the grandmother of Laci Breen, a senior at Southern High School who will attend Elon University in the fall. The Elon Academy entered the family’s life during a difficult period and Rimmer thanked the faculty and staff for teaching with compassion, care and love.
Speaking directly to the scholars, Rimmer left them with a change. “Your time at the Elon Academy was a passage. I’m full of pride for all of you. This is your true beginning.”
The ceremony concluded with a presentation of awards from the Alamance Breakfast Rotary Club, Phi Beta Kappa, NC Eta Chapter and Elon Academy staff.