Elon Academy welcomes Omicron Class of scholars

Twenty-two freshmen from Alamance County high schools have been selected to join the 14th class of the college access and success program.

Twenty-two freshmen from Alamance County high schools have been selected to join the 14th class of scholars in the Elon Academy, the university’s college access and success program.

José Pahua Bejar from Graham High School is among the newly accepted Elon Academy scholars.

Each cohort is named after a letter from the Greek alphabet. This newest addition to the Elon Academy will be known as the Omicron Class. These students were selected from among approximately 130 applicants from across the county.

With the new cohort, the Elon Academy has now served almost 400 scholars in high school and college and has produced 88 four-year college graduates, with eight going on to receive graduate degrees.

Elon Academy staff typically travel to local schools in early April to surprise applicants with news of acceptance into the program. Due to COVID-19, phone calls replaced in-person announcements this spring.

José Pahua Bejar, a freshman at Graham High School, recounts his surprise at being called.

“I was honestly in shock because there were a lot of kids who wanted to be in. I was proud of myself because I guess Elon Academy liked something that I had,” Bejar said.

Bejar’s classmate, Maria Jimenez Tellez, also received an acceptance call from Elon Academy staff.

“I couldn’t wait to tell my parents and when I did tell my parents I saw how proud they were of me and it made me even more happy,” said said.

The Elon Academy partners with local students and their families starting at the end of their first year of high school and continues this partnership through high school, the completion of an undergraduate degree and even on to the pursuit of graduate studies. The students served are from families without a history of college and with a financial barrier to pay for college.

Maria Jimenez Tellez from Graham High School is among the newly accepted Elon Academy scholars.

How do scholars like Bejar and Tellez feel about joining the Elon Academy? “I think it will be a good experience for how it will be in college and I expect it to be family that I can rely on,” Bejar said. He looks forward to the opportunities Elon Academy will afford him that may also increase his chances of both college acceptance and scholarships. Tellez views the opportunity as “stairs to success”.

Leading a small and dedicated Elon Academy staff, Elon Academy Director Terry Tomasek relies on partnership with local schools to recruit scholars and to support scholars through the high school years. Local school faculty volunteer in the role of “Elon Academy Advocates”.  Will Hemminger is the Elon Academy Advocate at Western Alamance High School. He also happens to be an Elon alumnus.

“I have a direct connection between the university and community that few alumni have,” Hemminger said.

He feels that his role allows him to “expose and promote underrepresented college-bound students to one of the finest higher education institutions in the country.”  Having experienced all that Elon has to offer as a student allows Hemminger to be able “to more effectively guide scholars through all of Elon’s resources that will make them successful at their home high school.”

To date, 100 percent of Elon Academy scholars who have completed the high school phase of the program have been accepted to college and 84 percent of scholars in college are persisting.

The Elon Academy is a nonprofit organization and is not supported by university tuition dollars. The Elon Academy is part of the university’s Center for Access and Success.

The Omicron Class includes the following Alamance County Students:

  • Ja’Mera Adams (Western Alamance High School)
  • Genesis Beltran (Graham High School)
  • Kaylen Breeze (Williams High School)
  • Madi Ceesay (Eastern Alamance High School)
  • Jaylem Cheek (Williams High School)
  • Isabella DiBenedetto (Southern Alamance High School)
  • Katelyn Emory (Alamance-Burlington Early College)
  • Daniel Espinosa (River Mill Academy)
  • Tashawna Garner (Eastern Alamance High School)
  • Jahaziel Herberth Martinez (Alamance-Burlington Early College)
  • Edward Hernandez (Alamance-Burlington Early College)
  • Shania Hester (Eastern Alamance High School)
  • Omar Illesca Reyes (Williams High School)
  • Maria Jimenez Tellez (Graham High School)
  • Jordan Lambert (Western Alamance High School)
  • Ema Mays (River Mill Academy)
  • Christen McAdoo (Graham High School)
  • Litzy Mora-Hernandez (Williams High School)
  • Cooper Oates (Williams High School)
  • José Pahua Bejar (Graham High School)
  • Daysi Pacheco Paredes (Graham High School)
  • Kiara “Kiwi” Vera Rodriguez (Western Alamance High School)