Elon Academy welcomes newest class of scholars with special College Coffee

Monday's gathering on Scott Plaza in front of the Alamance Building offered an opportunity to welcome new and returning members of the Elon Academy, the university's college access and success program for local high school students.

The Elon community on Monday turned out to greet the newest members of the Elon Academy, the university’s college access and success program for local high school students.

Sponsored by the Office of the President, a special College Coffee on June 18 offered the opportunity to celebrate dozens of high school scholars from Alamance County who will spend the next month in a mix of academic and college preparation activities. Elon’s Global Neighborhood residence halls will be home to 70 students who will participate in academic and college preparatory activities through July 13.

Large tubs of ice cream helped bring some relief from the heat, as Elon faculty and staff mingled with returning Elon Academy scholars as well as this newest cohort, the Nu Class.

Launched by the university in 2007, the Elon Academy is an intensive college access and success 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.

An opening ceremony on Sunday night for the scholars and their families included a welcome and honor ceremony, very similar to what Elon students participate at the start of each academic year.

The two returning cohorts — the Lamba and Mu classes — are joined this year by the Nu Class, which has 24 members from high schools around the county. During the summer session, they’ll be working with 13 faculty members, 11 staff members and more than a dozen mentors, most of whom attend Elon.

Terry Tomasek, director of the Elon Academy, said that three mentors this summer had previously participated in the Elon Academy, giving them additional insight into what the students experience during the four-week program. “The mentors are ‘near peers,’ meaning that they have the perspective of being in college and aren’t so far removed from high school,” Tomasek said. “For those Elon Academy graduates, they now have the opportunity to see life from the other side.”

Among the members of the Nu Class is Jose Reyes, whose relationship with Elon extends back to elementary school when he began participating in the “It Takes a Village” Project. He’s among a handful of students who worked with mentors from Elon through the Village project, which offers reading and academic support to local schoolchildren, and now are focusing on preparing for college through the Elon Academy.

“I am really looking forward to learning something new, getting out of my comfort zone, and making new friends this summer,” said Reyes, who will be a sophomore at Cummings High School in the fall. “Elon has been such a big part of my life so far. Making it to Elon to spend the summer really makes me excited about my future.”

During the next four weeks, the scholars will participate in academic classes in the morning before moving to college preparation courses in the afternoon. Skylar Sykes, a fellow member of the Nu Class and a rising sophomore at Western Alamance High School, is taking courses in managing money and philosophy this summer, and said her education will go beyond the classroom. She is looking forward to the new experiences she’ll have during the coming month, such as living in a dorm with someone she’s just met like she could when she attends college.

“This is going to be a chance to be open to new academic and social experiences,” Sykes said.

Like Reyes, Zay Alston participated in the Village Project and is now part of the Elon Academy as a member of the Mu Class. A rising junior at Southern Alamance High School, Alston looks to build upon what he learned during his first summer in the academy.

“Now that I have a year under my belt, I look forward to opening up to more people,” Alston said. “I want to be able to help those who may be having this experience for the first time.”