Song, dance mark close of Summer in the Village camp

The two-week summer program attracted 150 students in first through 12th grades to Elon's campus as part of the It Takes a Village Project. The camp combined academic instruction with areas including music, dance, technology and art. 

Hands shot up Tuesday morning as Elon University Provost Steven House, a professor of biology, rattled off questions for students in this year’s Summer in the Village program. 

Casey Collins '11, a teacher at Eastlawn Elementary School in Burlington, leads participants in the Summer in the Village program in a song as part of the closing ceremony for the summer camp. (Kim Walker)
“How many of you love to read? How many of you love math? How many of you love science?” House asked. “Please know I read, I do math, and I do science every day of my life. If you love those disciplines, when you go back to school this fall, you will be able to ask good questions of your teachers and your parents.”

For the past two weeks, 150 area students have converged on campus for the summer portion of Elon’s It Takes a Village Project, which initially with a focus on childhood literacy and has since expanded to include students from first through 12th grade and a broader range of academic areas. Made possible by funding from Wells Fargo, Summer in the Village just completed its third year with its largest group of students yet. 

“We are very proud of the gift we made that supports this program, a program that helps ensure our youth and others have access to the support they need to enhance their educational experiences,” said Jerry Bailey, market president and business banking manager for Wells Fargo. 

Madelyn Pastrana, project coordinator for the It Takes a Village Project, said the focus for the students in the mornings has been on academic areas, while afternoons were spent exploring “specials” — topics such as technology, art, dance, physical fitness and music. Jean Rattigan-Rohr, director of The Center for Access and Success and Elon’s executive director of community partnerships, said the program helps provide continuity for students, with a large portion of those participating in the summer program also part of It Takes a Village during the school year. 

“Sometimes in the summer, students lose some of the gains they’ve made during the school year,” Rattigan-Rohr said. “Because in the morning we do academics, they’re able to keep a lot of the things they’ve learned in school.”

Parents and friends gathered outside Lindner Hall to view art and science projects their students had been working on, and take in song and dance performances learned during the past two weeks. 

That included the West African welcome song “Fanga Alafia” performed by first- and second-graders with an accomanying dance taught by Winston-Salem dance instructor Desiree Maynard, and “Ujima,” a song about community taught by Casey Collins ’11, a music teacher at Eastlawn Elementary in Burlington. 

​Maynard and Collins were among 13 teachers from outside Elon’s faculty and staff ranks that came to the university from Alamance, Guilford and Forsyth counties this summer to work with students. They joined 10 members of the Elon community. 

Summer in the Village added more than 50 participants this year as it expanded to include first-graders and high school students. Those older students learned about leadership during the past two weeks, an area that Esther Freeman, director of the Odyssey Scholars at Elon who worked with the students, is often absent from a high school education. 

“I firmly believe that many students are not being taught the leadership skills they need to be successful,” Freeman told the crowd gathered for the closing ceremony. 

It’s those skills that ninth-grader Whitney Moore was exposed to during Summer in the Village, which Moore described as “a coming together to form a community and help each other their triumphs and their failures.”

The growth of the summer program this year, as well as the ongoing expansion of the It Take a Village Project, is being driven by the responses from the community at-large, Pastrana said. 

“Everything that happens for us bubbles up because of a want and a need,” she said.