The mission of the Elon Academy is to inspire academically promising students – who are often underrepresented on college and university campuses – to pursue higher education, build leadership skills, and develop an active sense of social responsibility. We want them to gain the academic strengths, interpersonal skills and sense of self-worth that will position them to succeed in college and beyond. We believe that with the proper support every student who aspires to go to college can accomplish that goal.
When Superior Court Judge Howard Manning threatened to close an underperforming school in Alamance County in 2006, Elon’s 8th President, Leo M. Lambert, found himself rethinking the role of the University in our local community. How could Elon, a thriving institution with tremendous resources, reconcile its place in a community where only seven miles away a high school struggled to survive? What could Elon, as an institution and as a society of individuals, do to address such a serious inequity?
As a result of President Lambert’s thinking and commitment to the broader community, Elon took major steps to increase its involvement in local schools and educational efforts. Building on existing programs for new and veteran teachers through the Office of School Outreach Programs in the School of Education, service learning projects and tutoring programs sponsored by the Kernodle Center for Civic Life, the university initiated new and ambitious programs that increased Elon’s support of education in the local area. These efforts ranged from initiatives at Cummings High School to support its restructuring to the creation of the Elon Academy.
The Elon Academy is a model for success for many reasons. We maintain supportive relationships through regular contact and consistent support to our scholars and their families to and through college. We involve a multigenerational, diverse faculty and staff to ensure that our scholars and families have role models of all ages and backgrounds as they pursue their dreams. Minimal faculty/staff turnover allows us to build trust among our constituents, to generate innovative ideas, and to build on existing and develop new programs every year. We have strong leadership and expertise in our permanent staff and a variety of human resources we call upon for special programming. Finally, a key ingredient is the expectation of family involvement, both at home with their students and with workshops on campus. Parents and guardians understand and are fully engaged in the college process and opportunity. Interpreters are provided for our Spanish-speaking families and all materials are available in English and Spanish.
Elon Academy is successful in moving students and families from aspirations to actualization by embracing practices that are found to be successful in other pre-college outreach programs. In every aspect of the Academy, large or small, we are intentional. Everything we do has an articulated purpose aligned with our mission and goals. We focus on students and student/parent efficacy. From the moment students are accepted into the Academy we begin saying, “When you go to college and when you are awarded that scholarship.” We never use the word “if.” We are data driven and responsive. We collect both qualitative and quantitative data to provide individualized support to students and families and to improve our programming. Our staff regularly participate in ongoing professional development by attending and presenting at state, regional, and national conferences to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of new research and best practices.
We are intrusive. We have high behavioral and academic expectations and we consistently communicate those expectations and provide immediate feedback when expectations are not met. To ensure that our students can meet those expectations, however, we consistently provide comprehensive academic, social, cultural, and financial support. We are relentless about scholar growth, staff development, and program improvement.
Finally, we have a diverse funding portfolio to ensure sustainability thanks to a lead gift from Douglas G. and Edna Truitt Noiles. Although the Academy was launched by Elon University and the university provides significant in-kind support, the Academy is primarily funded through donations from organizations, businesses, foundations, and individuals. With support from many generous donors (please see our donor page), the Elon Academy’s endowment has grown from $196,000 in 2007 to more than $5 million in 2019. A fully-funded Elon Academy would require an endowment of $10 million.
The important work of the Elon Academy continues because of the many donors who believe in the power of education to change lives.