Elon Academy scholars present at Seattle conference

Five high school students from the Elon Academy traveled to Seattle this spring for the Society for Applied Anthropology conference where they presented a research poster on how intersections of social location such as race, class, gender and sexuality can produce barriers to and opportunities for college access.

From left: Ginika Nwoko, Karina Navarro, Elon University sophomore Molly O’Brien and Josh Hilgartner

Josh Hilgartner (Eastern Alamance High School), Elizabeth Tish (Graham High School), Karina Navarro (Cummings High School), Ginika Nwoko (Williams High School) and Emani Richmond (Eastern Alamance High School) were mentored by Elon University sophomore Molly O’Brien, an anthropology major and creative writing minor. Their presentation, “Engaging High School Students in Research: A Participatory Research Project on College Access,” revealed preliminary findings from the yearlong study.

The Seattle team, along with 10 other scholars in the Academy, have been working on the project since September with Mary Alice Scott, an Elon Academy research associate. Findings from the study will be published this summer in a book that will be co-authored by Elon Academy scholars, O’Brien, Scott, assistant professor Kim Pyne, associate professor Ken Hassell, Elon Academy assistant director Darris Means ‘05, Elon Academy counselor Katie Wicke-LaPlante ’05 and professor Deborah Long, who directs the Elon Academy.

In addition to the poster presentation, scholars served on a panel after SfAA conference participants viewed the Elon Academy documentary film, Alpha Class: Promises and Pitfalls on the Path to College. The film highlights inequities in the U.S. educational system by following four students from admission to the Elon Academy through high school graduation. It also explores the potential for success when underserved students experience additional support.

The documentary was filmed and edited by Elon University undergraduate students under the direction of associate professor Brooke Barnett.

Scholars and staff spent March 31-April 3 in Seattle and had the opportunity to tour the University of Washington, visit the Seattle Aquarium, the Experience Music Project, tour Underground Seattle, enjoy Pike Place Market, and view Mount Rainier from the airplane.

The Jack and Mary McCall Charitable Foundation, the Elon University Board of Trustees, the President’s Office at Elon University, the School of Education and the Math Department were among the offices and people who made the trip possible.

Launched by Elon University in 2007, the Elon Academy is an intensive three-year academic enrichment and leadership development program for local high school students with high financial need or no family history of attending college. It combines a month-long residential program over three successive summers with follow-up experiences during the academic year. Elon Academy staff worked closely with advocates from all six high schools, River Mill Public Charter School, as well as Alamance-Burlington School System staff to identify, select, and support these bright, highly motivated, local students who dream of a college education.