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Discovery program connects new students to Elon and each other

The first-year summer experience program offered by the Office of New Student and Transition Programs familiarizes incoming students with Elon's campus and helps them develop outdoor and team-building skills before classes begin in the fall.

Canoeing the Shenandoah River

College is the beginning of many new experiences. Challenges such as living on your own, sharing a room, deciding a major and meeting new friends aren’t always as easy as they seem.

By scrambling over rocks on an 8.8 mile hike, canoeing 7 miles down a river, painting walking railing at the greenway and painting picnic benches, playground equipment, parking rails, and benches at Lake Arrowhead in Luray, Virginia, 13 incoming students chose to jump start their college experience in a positive way in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Elon’s Discovery Program, a first-year summer experience program offered by the Office of New Student Orientation and Transition, familiarizes incoming students with Elon's campus and helps them develop outdoor and team-building skills before they begin classes in the fall. This year, the program was led by student facilitators Colleen Fitzpatrick '17 and Logan Quackenbush '17. Steve Morrison, coordinator of Gap Programs, and Craig Schmitt, an instructor in the Department of Sport and Event Management, served as advisers.

On June 22, within minutes of arriving on campus, the students quickly learned how to trust and depend on one another while participating on the low-ropes course of the Elon Challenge Course. There, they learned concepts that would bring them together for a positive, unified week.

Old Rag Summit

The Discovery program traveled to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and conquered the trails of Old Rag Mountain. Accompanied by their student facilitators and advisers, the group hiked nearly 9 miles, working together through a rock scramble to a 3,291 foot summit, where they encountered some of the most beautiful scenery Virginia and the East Coast has to offer.

Participants also strengthened teamwork and communication skills during a 7-mile canoe ride down the Shenandoah River and explored the history of the local Luray Caverns.

Amidst developing outdoor and teamwork skills, the students put these skills to work as they assisted the Town of Luray Parks and Recreation in performing a variety of service projects as the town prepared for their annual Fourth of July celebration weekend. The students took this opportunity to learn from each other, practice necessary skills for beginning their college careers and giving back to the town that has been hosting the Discovery Program since 2001.

Painting the green way

Beyond adventures through the wilderness and service, upperclassmen facilitators guided new students on discussions, ranging from involvement opportunities, the Elon Honor Code, academic rigor and being an active contributor in the Elon community.

Despite only spending one week with each other, the students gained trust and formed friendships that will last forever. Determination—and pushing through obstacles—helped each participant realize that even though college is a significant transition, they have peers who will be a support during this time.

For these 13 first-year students, getting ready to start a new chapter in their life, Discovery helped ease worries about roommates, friendships and learning about academic expectations before coming to Elon. In a way, their first glimpse at college life was a discovery, through leadership, service, discussion and teamwork.

Discovery participants included: Alex Attanasio, Chace Blackburn, Amelia Cole, Lizzie Conley, Tori Cummings, Ansley Hamilton, Claire Hassard, Mary Stuart McGuire, Kat Moore, Andrew Murray, Leah Pellett, Maddii Petrella, and Lynde Smith.

Steve Morrison,
7/7/2014 10:10 AM