Engaging Experience: Summer offers time for new Elon students to support local community
Eighteen members of the Class of 2022 spent nearly a week working with local nonprofit groups to learn about the surrounding community.
Eighteen of Elon’s newest students immersed themselves in serving the surrounding community during this summer’s Engage program that offered them a first taste of life at Elon.
One of the summer experiences for first-year Elon students coordinated through the university’s New Student & Transition Programs office, Engage is headed by the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement. The program offers an introduction to Elon and provides the opportunity for service across a range of campus and community organizations.
The 18 students participated in a Habitat for Humanity building project, worked at a local Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, volunteered at the Conservators Center (an educational nonprofit that provides a home to select species), and worked in a variety of capacities at Peacehaven Farm, a sustainable farm and affordable housing community for adults with special needs.
Kyle Anderson, assistant director for student community engagement in the Kernodle Center and staff advisor for the program, said that “through Engage, we hope to introduce our group of incoming students to Elon’s culture of service and also campus beyond the Elon bubble. By getting to know local organizations, opportunities, activities, and campus resources students who participate in Engage will come in more prepared to start their college experience.”
McKenna Patterson ’20 participated in Engage three summers ago as she prepared to attend Elon, and served as student director of the program this year. She said Engage made her feel much more comfortable walking onto campus on Move-In Day.
“I had already begun making friends, and knew staff and faculty members,” Patterson said. “I had a lot of confidence because of that experience. It has shaped my experience here at Elon for sure.”
Patterson along with fellow students, faculty and staff strove to provide that same type of experience this year to Engage participants, who arrived on campus from a range of states along the East Coast and the Midwest. During the six-day program that ran July 8-13, time spent working with the nonprofit organizations was supplemented by panel discussions with faculty, staff and current students about the Elon experience in the evenings.
They hiked at Cedar Rock Park and took time to hear from local elected officials who offered more insight into the community. A visit to downtown Burlington helped familiarize them with the broader community in which they’ll be living, Patterson said.
“I think they were able to learn so much about all that Elon has to offer while getting a head start on learning about the surrounding community,” Patterson said. “I know that was a big takeaway when I was a participant.”
Engage is one of five First-Year Summer Experiences offered for members of the Class of 2022 this year. Three separate Adventures in Leadership programs offered students a chance to gather for whitewater rafting and rock climbing in western North Carolina, backpacking in Pisgah National Forest and outdoor experiences closer to campus. In the Innovation: Los Angeles program that ran July 28 through Aug. 1, students gathered to look at how innovation will serve them well during their college careers.