University welcomes newest members of Elon Academy at special College Coffee

The June 17 gathering provided the opportunity for Elon faculty and staff to talk with members of the newest cohort, the Xi Class, as well as other Elon Academy scholars who will be on campus through mid-July. 

Cold ice cream offered a warm welcome to the newest members of the Elon Academy, the university's college access and success program for Alamance County high school students. 

Sponsored by the Office of the President, the special College Coffee on June 17 provided the opportunity to celebrate these scholars from local high schools 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 76 students who will participate in academic and college preparatory activities through July 12. 

​Dozens of faculty and staff members turned out to meet and greet the Elon Academy students and welcome the newest cohort of students, the Xi 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.

This summer, Elon Academy participants will each take two academic classes as well as a college-planning course. That classroom time will be combined with college visits as well as physical activities and cultural programming in the evenings. Scholars will return to their homes on Saturdays after participating in a service activity in the morning and then come back to campus on Sunday afternoons.

An opening ceremony 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.

Among the 26 members of the new Xi Class was Noah Vaught, a rising sophomore at Graham High School. Vaught said he was looking forward this summer to building new connections with those in his Elon Academy class as well as the other classes. "I'm just so glad to have this opportunity," Vaught said. 

Terry Tomasek, director of the Elon Academy, said that the immersive experience during the summer allows students to participate in classes they might not find in their home schools, to build connections with mentors and fellow students and to learn how to navigate the college application process. Monday's gathering always proves to be a popular way to start the summer session, she said. 

​"I think the value to the students is just interacting with people they don't know. That's such a valuable life skill," Tomasek said. 

For Elon faculty and staff, gathering to meet Elon Academy students brings the program to life for them, Tomasek. "We can give them a brochure and they can read about it, but with this, they're able to interact with them and really get to know these young people," she said. 

While students like Vaught are getting their first taste of the Elon Academy, members of the program's Mu Class are heading into their final year of high school when they will be putting into action much of what they've learned as they undertake the college application process. 

Aaliyah Payne, a rising senior at ABSS Early College at Alamance Community College, said she was looking forward to college visits this summer, which include trips to N.C. State University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wake Forest University and others. "Without Elon Academy, that's not something I would have been able to do on my own," Payne said. 

Eva Perez, a member of the Mu Class and a rising senior at Southern Alamance High School, said she's nervous about the college application process, but said she feels well-prepared. "I feel like all that we've done during the past several years has really prepared me to move to this next stage," she said. "I'm nervous, but I feel like I have a good team behind me."

Darris Means '05 worked with the Elon Academy for its first seven years and now serves in student affairs at the University of Georgia. He left Elon in 2014 but returns each summer to work with Elon Academy, noting that the experience builds upon his area of research for his doctorate focused on educational access. 

"To see all the work that the Elon Academy has done with the dedication of its staff and faculty members is very impressive," Means said. 

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