In the Elon Academy we have adopted a holistic youth development model that builds on the strengths the scholars and families bring to our work together. While access to information about college is essential, that information alone is insufficient. We provide experiences that inspire our scholars to find their passion, find meaning in their lives, and imagine new futures for themselves and their families. In every aspect of the Academy, no matter how large or how small, we are intentional. Everything we do has an articulated purpose that is aligned with our mission and goals. We are intrusive. We have high behavioral and academic expectations and we consistently communicate those expectations and provide immediate feedback if they are not met. We are relentless about scholar growth, staff growth, and program development. We don’t give up until they/we “get it right.”
As we come to the end of our eighth year, it is only appropriate to reflect on the mission and goals of the Elon Academy. Of course, we want each scholar to be accepted to and to be successful at the college of his or her choice. We also want scholars to get good grades and to be leaders at their high schools and in college. Although these aspirations are important, they do not tell the whole story. In a certain sense, these aims fail to address the deepest purpose of the Academy. Fundamentally, our mission is for each of us to become better, whether that means being better students, better friends, better teachers, or better mentors. Whether the obstacles are physical, intellectual, or social, we have learned to treat every challenge as an opportunity for growth. Success at the Academy is ultimately measured by one's willingness to work hard, accept criticism, and always strive to improve. If there is one thing that we can all take away from this experience, it is this mindset of perpetual critical self-reflection and self-improvement.
With the school year underway, the real work begins. As we all return to our "regular" lives, one of the most difficult things is taking the amazing and transformative summer experiences back to our daily routines. Although most of our lives appear very different from life here at the Academy, the lessons we have learned and the attitudes that we have cultivated can be applied to all of our pursuits. It is not enough to be a great student here at Elon; scholars must continue to be engaged, diligent scholars during the school year. Remaining focused and inspired will require that everyone work together and support each other.
Deborah Long, Elon Academy Founding Director