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Honors Fellows trade in textbooks for trowels during service weekend in Asheville

Nearly three dozen from Elon traveled to Asheville, N.C. last weekend to work with Habitat for Humanity on three homes now under construction. 

A group of nearly three dozen Honors Fellows left Elon behind last week to head to the mountains of North Carolina to work with Habitat for Humanity on three homes for low-income families now under construction. 

A group of nearly three dozen Honors Fellows at an Asheville homebuilding site where they worked with Habitat for Humanity as part of a weekend service trip. 

The annual trip offers a chance for this group of Elon scholars to build relationships with each other outside of the classroom while working together to provide service to a community, said Ben Bridges '17, an Honors Fellow and community director for the program. For Bridges, it was a chance to work again with Habitat for Humanity as he did as a first-year Elon student. 

"This service trip is a great method to encourage community bonding among Honors Fellows," Bridges said. "There are a lot of connections that can be made as you're working toward a common goal."

This is the fifth year Honors Fellows have participated in a Winter Term service trip, said Tom Mould, professor of anthropology and director of the Honors Fellows Program. The focus with the program is on first-year fellows, about half of whom typically participate in an Honors Fellows study abroad program in either Italy or Turkey during Winter Term each year. Mould said the service trip was launched to help create an opportunity for those first-year fellows who don't travel abroad to experience some of the same bonding activities while working together. 

The group was primarily made up of first-year Honors Fellows, and offered a chance to bond while working together toward a common goal. 

​"It fits within the larger effort to really make the Honors Fellows Program not just a series of classes or a group of people who get to graduate with a medal around their neck," Mould said. "We hope it creates fertile ground for that intersection of the social and the intellectual."

The group traveled to Asheville on Friday, Jan. 13, and stayed at a large facility outside of Asheville in Montreat. On Saturday, the team headed to three homes being built by Habitat in Asheville where they divided into smaller groups to tackle different projects on each future home. Some picked paintbrushes to begin interior painting while others used trowels to spread mortar on the homes' foundations. 

"This is a great way to connect in a very casual setting," he said of working in small groups, noting the meaningful conversations he had with a fellow student while working on a wheelchair ramp at one house. 

The trip, which is in its fifth year, also included opportunities to bond beyond their service work, including a hike at Lookout Mountain. 

​The work with Habitat for Humanity on Saturday was supplemented with time spent in downtown Asheville Saturday night and a hike to Lookout Mountain Sunday morning. Each night, the group would gather to spend time together playing board games and getting to know each other better, Bridges said. 

Simran Puri '20 said she enjoyed getting to know those Honors Fellows in her own class she had yet to have a chance to connect with, as well as to spend time in service with fellows in other classes who were on the trip as well. "I've really like the sense of community you have being part of the Honors Fellows Program," Puri said. "You always have 39 other fellows in your class you can count on. I feel like over the next three years, that's going to be really helpful."

Owen Covington,
1/18/2017 1:50 PM