Alamance County high school students in the university's college access & enrichment program reflected July 13 on their growth.
Seventy-two students taking part in the Elon Academy concluded their four-week stay on campus Friday in a series of presentations to family and friends followed by a Whitley Auditorium program that featured tributes, reflections and an address by Elon University President Leo M. Lambert.
Presentations were made in several classrooms on the second floor of Alamance. Older scholars read draft admissions essays they may use this fall as they begin applying to college, while younger scholars shared remarks on what the Elon Academy has meant to them. The presentations allow students to sharpen the public speaking skills that academy staff teach from the very beginning of the program.
“A lot of these kids at the opening ceremony (each year in June) can’t even look you in the eyes,” said Frank Lyon ’71, a member of the Elon University Board of Trustees and one of the most generous benefactors of the Elon Academy. Lyon had traveled to Elon from Connecticut to attend the closing program. “Then, in July, they’re giving these presentations? The transformations are unbelievable.
“I love coming down for these. Listening to these kids, they’re like sponges. They want to know everything … and it’s amazing how this program transforms lives.”
Comments from many of the scholars illustrated Lyon’s point. “The Elon Academy has helped me grow not only as a leader, but as a follower,” said Khalil Poole, a rising junior at Graham High School. “I’m the kind of person who likes the spotlight. This helped me watch other people and have just as much fun.”
Added Jill Eperson, a rising junior at River Mill Academy: “I’ve been prioritizing and learning how to be a better student. I also feel I’ve learned it’s better to help people than it is myself.” Academic performance is another goal of the program, as Southern Alamance High School junior Angel Scales noted. “The classes here will help me with my AP classes back at school,” she said.
Elon University launched the Elon Academy in 2007 to give students from local high schools the opportunity to embrace education, develop leadership skills and engage in various outreach venues. The academy is welcoming its sixth class of students into the program this summer.
In the closing ceremony, Lambert suggested to scholars that they not let small obstacles keep them from achieving their life goals, and to take advantage of the many opportunities the Elon Academy and higher education will offer. “There are so many worthy goals you can set your mind to and accomplish!” he said.
Lambert also reminded scholars not to forget the “angels” who surround them – parents, educators, Elon Academy staff – who are there to support their dreams. Nor should they forget that “character counts” and to show gratitude for help while always assisting others.
During the closing program, Elon Academy lead mentors Nate Thomas and Zana Milak, both recent graduates of Elon University in the Class of 2012, presented a tribute to the Delta Class, which finished its last summer on campus as rising high school seniors.
Delta Class scholar Treylon Marrow, a rising senior at Cummings High School, reflected as well on the support and acceptance he found from his peers in the Elon Academy. That support has given him the self-confidence to pursue a college education. “I am living proof that you have the ability to make it through any challenge, not matter how difficult,” he said.
Inspired by similar programs at Princeton, Furman and Vanderbilt universities, the Academy is a year-round program for students in the Alamance-Burlington School System. It combines three intensive four-week summer residential experiences at Elon with a variety of academic activities throughout the school year.
The Elon Academy is now serving 136 scholars, including those who have graduated and now attend college, and approximately 350 family members.
“It’s been the best summer yet. The level of thought and critical analysis among these scholars has surpassed any other year,” said Professor Deborah Long, who has directed the Elon Academy since its inception. “Students have not only met but have surpassed our expectations.”