Building on Elon University’s strengths in K-12 education outreach, college access and success programs, mentoring, and community engagement, Elon University became a Teagle Foundation “Knowledge for Freedom” partner in 2020 – 2021. In close alignment with Elon’s 2020-2030 strategic plan Boldly Elon, The Freedom Scholars prepares local Alamance-Burlington high school students from underserved populations for college, and mentors them to assume roles as active citizen-leaders in their communities.

Beginning with a two-week residential, immersive seminar in the summer before their senior year, the high school scholars will work intensively with Elon faculty, staff and students to explore the principles and concepts of freedom, citizenship and democracy advanced in ancient, modern and contemporary texts. They will engage in critical conversations and craft oral and written arguments that respond to the assigned readings. Then, the cohort will identify a challenge(s) facing their local communities and design a service initiative(s) around which they will apply the principles they have learned.

At the successful conclusion of the summer seminaresidency, Freedom Scholars will earn college credit. Freedom Scholars will also earn a small honorarium to help mitigate the competing  financial pressures enrolling in the program may impose should they not be able to contribute to their household incomes during the program.

Over the course of the academic year, Freedom Scholars will collaborate with civic-leader and career mentors, whose expertise in the Freedom Scholars’ areas of interest will help deepen and shape their understanding of some of the complex challenges they must address in their battles against the barriers holding back their communities’ progress. The Freedom Scholars cohort will meet once each month to develop their projects and continue their exploration of what it means to be actively engaged scholars and civic leaders.

Each cohort will organize and host “The Freedom Scholars Symposium” to culminate their yearlong experience. They will choose the plenary speaker to address a theme relevant to their collective work in the program, and invite peers, family members, teachers, and community members to hear their presentations. Among the broad range of attendees at the symposium will be the incoming cohort of Freedom Scholars. The symposium will act as a bridging event between cohorts. Following their matriculation in the Elon University Freedom Scholars initiative, the graduating high school seniors will collect the remaining half of their honorarium.

As we work with the Freedom Scholars to develop their mentoring networks, strengthen their written, oral and critical thinking skills, and hone their leadership abilities, this immersive, yearlong liberal arts experience will ready the Scholars for college and life beyond high school. Through our joint goals and collaborative partnership, Elon University shares the Tegle Foundation’s mission of providing opportunities that engage students in “meaningful work, effective citizenship, and a fulfilling life.”

Not only will we attend to the intellectual development and life of the Elon Freedom Scholars, we will also integrate co-curricular experiences focused on wellness, financial literacy, and community engagement and development. The Elon Freedom Scholars will meet monthly from September through May for structured activities designed to shape their thinking and group’s collaborative project(s). Parents and families will also be able to participate in select programs we offer throughout the year to help ready them for their roles in the Freedom Scholar’s college experience.