Elon’s Discovery Program, a first-year summer experience program of the Office of New Student Orientation, familiarizes incoming students with Elon's campus and helps them develop leadership and team-building skills before they begin in the fall.
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 9 miles down a river, clearing a trail and a flower bed, 20 incoming students chose to jump start their college experience in a positive way.
Elon’s Discovery Program, a first-year summer experience program of the Office of New Student Orientation, familiarizes incoming students with Elon’s campus and helps them develop leadership and team-building skills before they begin in the fall. This year, the program was led by student facilitators Christine Fortner ’15 and Dan Sheehan ‘15, advised by Steve Morrison, coordinator of Gap Programs and Ashley Pearson, associate director of Admissions.
On June 24, within minutes of arriving on campus, the students quickly learned how to trust and depend on one another while participating on the Elon low-ropes course. Here, they learned concepts that would bring them together for a positive, unified week.
The Discovery program traveled to Luray, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley and conquered the trails of Old Rag Mountain. Accompanied by their student facilitators and advisers, the group hiked nearly nine 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 13 mile canoe ride down the Shenandoah River and explored the history of the local Luray Caverns.
Amidst developing leadership and teamwork skills, the students put these skills to work as they assisted Lake Arrowhead Recreational Park to clear a lakeside trail for hikers and remove growth from a flower bed, making it easier for visitors to walk around the lake and to enjoy the Park. The students took this opportunity to learn from each other, practice necessary skills for beginning their college careers, and giving back to a campground that has been hosting the Discovery Program for more than ten years.
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 their transition.
One participant wrote: “Discovery was a truly unique and eye-opening experience for me. Through challenging myself and my peers to break our own boundaries, I was given the tools to lead and build strong relationships.”
For these 20 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 were: John Dargan, Anna DeDufour, Kirstie Deprey, Tyler DiLoreto, Sara Dunlap, Claire Fox, Emily Ann Galloway, Morgan Goldstein, Brett Gubitosi, Tanner Hamilton, Hattie Hoskins, Conor Janda, Jessica Jones, Ryan Kenney, Anna Patterson, Davis Rumley, Maggie Shoemaker, Theresa Sullivan, Elizabeth Van Hise, and Max Whelan