Class of 2019 celebrates at Senior Picnic
Sponsored by the Office of Alumni Engagement and the Office of the Provost, the annual event offers a chance for seniors, faculty and staff to gather heading into Commencement.
The Class of 2019 gathered for the Senior Picnic Wednesday, just two days before they will reconvene in caps and gowns to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.
The annual gathering sponsored by the Office of Alumni Engagement and the Office of the Provost is an opportunity for the university they have called home for the past four years to honor its most recent graduating class. Members of the Class of 2019 used the time to reconnect with each other, visit with favorite professors and talk about future plans with staff members as they head toward commencement on Friday.
The picnic was held Under the Oaks, the iconic location where these students gathered four years ago for New Student Convocation and received an acorn to mark the start of their journeys at Elon. On that day and under those oaks, Avery Steadman '16 encouraged them to "create and build meaningful connections on campus. Here at Elon, there are many individuals who are excited to share with you their passions and life paths to ensure that your tenure on this campus is a positive and impactful experience that will extend well beyond Elon into your post-graduate life."
Now nearly four years later as they gathered under those same oak trees, that positivity and those connections were in full bloom at the Senior Picnic, as these seniors, faculty and staff hugged, swapped stories and posed for pictures.
"It's been so nice to see all these people we've spent the last four years with really rally together," said Emily Golden, who is heading to Washington, D.C. after graduation to join Envision, a firm that teaches political leadership to college students.
Golden was one of many who placed pins in a map of the United States to mark where they will be next. From coast to coast, cities were dotted with pins representing new, future gatherings of Elon alums who will begin new careers, graduate degree programs, volunteer service or other new experiences following commencement.
Joe Ward, senior coordinator of regional alumni engagement was sharing information about these 38 alumni chapters around the country while encouraging the soon-to-be graduates to mark their future locations on the map. "They're so excited when they see an alumni network is in the place they're going to be, that a piece of Elon is going to be there for them in their new city," Ward said.
Seniors stopped by tables to make contributions to the Senior Class Gift and learn about annual giving, with the added benefit this year of a challenge gift from Elon parents Jen and Dave Porter. The Porters have pledged to give $20,000 to Elon if the Class of 2019 could set a new senior class giving record of 60 percent participation by the end of the day May 23.
The last exams now several days behind them and commencement a few days ahead, members of the Class of 2019 said they have spent this week getting together, visiting favorite places around campus and making plans for family and friends to come to town for commencement. Gabby Beamon admitted that she's been putting off packing up, saying she keeps putting it off.
She and friend Lily Hamilton said they'll miss having so many friends so close by the most. Beamon is heading to New York City to work in the public relations industry while Hamilton is moving to Los Angeles this fall to begin work in entertainment development.
Groups gathered under an arch made of balloons set up in front of West Hall for photos, beaming for the camera with arms wrapped around each other. Nearby under tents, groups of friends, faculty and staff gathered to share lunch, memories and future plans.
Emmanuel Morgan and Diego Pineda, who worked together for Elon News Network through their time at Elon, grabbed a meal and talked about their future plans. Pineda is bound for a position at the New York Post after graduation while Morgan will be heading to Atlanta to join the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
When he completed his last shift at the front desk of Moseley Center, where he's worked throughout the past four years, Pineda said it hit him that this period of his life is coming to a close. That said, he's excited become a professional journalist. "I'm ready to get into the field and show how everything I've learned here can be applied," Pineda said.
Both Morgan and Pineda said they are looking forward to the arrival of their families, with Morgan noting that he's one of the few in his family who will have a college degree. "I'm proud to be able to show to so many people that this is all possible," Morgan said. "My mom, she's so excited for me."
Pineda said his family immigrated to the U.S. years ago, and he always dreamed of becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. "This shows that moving to the U.S. has paid off," Pineda said. "A degree is something that I'm really passionate about. It's exciting to know that my dreams will keep going."