A first-year English class and students from Alamance Community College shared their profiles with each other and attendees during the Nov. 12 event.
A unique partnership between two classes — one at Elon, one at Alamance Community College — turned the students into teachers this fall.
During October, Assistant Professor of English Heather Lindenman’s English 110 class partnered with Alamance Community College students to spend hours getting to know each other, and learn each other’s stories. These students from different schools then tapped into that time spent together to write profiles of each other. On Tuesday, Nov. 12, the project culminated in the “Everybody Has a Story” event, which offered students the opportunity to share their stories with each other and the public.
“Doing a project where we write profiles of each other and we’re each contributing felt like we actually had the potential to learn from each other,” Lindenman said.
The project is the brainchild of Lindenman and Doreen Tuck, the Adult Basic Skills Coordinator at ACC, who wanted a collaborative project that would allow both schools to learn together on equal footing.
Elon students were paired with ACC students in a GED class and several additional English as a Second Language students, with Lindenman’s class traveling to ACC on Tuesday nights to talk to their partners.
The work from those Tuesday nights together was showcased at the Nov. 12 event, with attendees hearing from two pairs of students who shared parts of each other’s pieces. The remaining profiles written by ACC and Elon students were posted on the walls around the room where pairs stood by them so people could walk around and ask them about their writing.
This assignment allowed students to get to know someone that they normally might not be friends with on a deeper level, Lindenman said. “I think my students were impressed by their partners. They work multiple jobs, they have families, they balance a lot of things, they have really much more complicated stories than it appears on the surface.”
Noah Jordan ‘23 and ACC student Kelvin Lopez shared their profiles during the reading at the beginning of the event. “I think reflecting on other people’s lives and recognizing their accomplishments and hardships is just a really important aspect,” Jordan said. “It broadens our horizons and just teaches us about each other.”
Sabrina Otero, an instructor in the Career College program at ACC, participated in the assignment and wrote her profile on Raquel Romo ‘23. “When you first look at Raquel, you don’t automatically see someone who’s actually immigrated from Madrid, who has such incredible goals and who’s done such great advocacy work,” Otero said. “I was just so impressed and the fact that she’s only 18 and she’s so well-versed, she’s so on top of stuff, she’s ahead of the game and she’s so kind.”
Romo admits that she would not have normally had the opportunity to become friends with ACC students, and she enjoyed the chance to get to know someone from a different school. Romo said writing the profile was a valuable experience and she hopes it captures Otero’s personality.
There can often feel like there is a disconnect between Elon and the surrounding community, and pairs of students learning from each other helps bridge this gap.
“The understanding of Elon students by the community is not always positive,” Lindeman said. “I think the second you get two people one-on-one it’s going to change that, as people are paying attention and listening to one another and appreciating each other’s strengths. Once you start delving deeper into people’s stories, you just realize that there’s a lot more going on.”
Connor Jenkins ‘22, the Leader in collaborative service (LINCS) for Alamance Community College in the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, worked with Lindenman to coordinate this project. He explained that it was beneficial, particularly for first-year students to have this experience.
“I think that the Elon students, especially being first-semester freshmen, having the opportunity to engage with the community is something that you don’t get very often especially when you’re just so focused on everything in the Elon bubble,” Jenkins said. “Likewise, I think a lot of times ACC students also see Elon as a bubble from the other side so breaking those barriers and making those connections, I think it was valuable.”
Professors often emphasize learning from different perspectives, Lindenman said, and this allowed students to do that in an impactful way.
“At the heart of it is the fact that this project creates an opportunity for Elon and ACC students to genuinely learn from each other,” Lidenman said. “It also shows all participants ways that writing can be used to foster positive social change and do real work.”