‘Virtual Village’ supports Alamance, Guilford students with summer learning

Elon took its annual Summer in the Village enrichment program online this year by building a broader team to support students.

Elon’s “It Take a Village” Project, an initiative of the university’s Center for Access and Success, is built upon the idea that it takes help from many people from a variety of areas to support student learning and success.

That was never more apparent than this summer, as the Village Project tapped into new resources to adapt its annual Summer in the Village program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Village Project takes a collaborative approach to assist local students in reading, mathematics and other academic areas. Students and their parents meet with Elon students as well as trained community volunteers throughout the school year for tutoring and learning sessions on campus. Summer in the Village is typically a two-week on-campus program to support students during the summer break.

This year, the Village went virtual.

“Summer in the Village plays such a key role in sustaining learning during these summer months for students who participate in the It Takes a Village Project, so we knew we had to make this happen,” said Jean Rattigan-Rohr, vice president for access and success at Elon. “The summer program is always a team effort, and this year we were able to expand that team to ensure this critical program could continue.”

Elon student Maclean Wilson working with kindergarten students in the Virtual Village.

In an effort to bring innovative instruction to more than 230 K-12 students from Alamance and Guilford counties, the Village Project relied upon the support of parents, 19 classroom teachers, nearly 50 Elon students employed through the university’s new E Company initiative. It tapped into the talents and time of Alamance Burlington School System Principal Larry Conte, a guest reader who taught students about the Civil War and current issues related to racial unrest.

Joining the effort were two members from the Doherty Center of Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Love School of Business, Director Alyssa Martina and Program Assistant Kim Phipps, who taught entrepreneurship to the fifth-grade students. Students used the lessons they learned in their entrepreneurship class to create inventions that might be useful to themselves and society.

That culminated in a mini Invention Challenge during their final Zoom class during which the students presented their creative ideas at tackling unique challenges. The top three inventions were the Magical Dresser, a bedroom dresser that helps pull together outfits, the Pill Bracelet that helps patients remember their medications, and Tiny Trainer, a robot that trains dogs.

The virtual Summer in the Village took on a different feel and approach this summer, but still offered the same opportunities for students to continue their learning and to build new connections with each other and their instructors. Fifth-grader Andrew Simon noted how much he is going to miss joining the group each morning for two hours.

Third-grade students during an online session during the Virtual Village.

ABSS teacher Marie Alston expressed her appreciation for the program and the opportunity to work with Elon students who were participating in the E Company initiative. “I am so grateful to have had this opportunity along with these exceptional Elon tutors, to keep open such powerful instruction for our local K-12 over the past month.”

Parent DeAnna Faust-Platt said, she was, “thankful for the opportunity for our young folks to learn and grow during such an unusual time. She noted of the zoom sessions that “It was nice to hear, plus see the young minds at work.” Parent Veronica Guerrero, expressed her thanks for the “Village camp and all the people who make up this great team and for the opportunity of these 4 weeks of virtual classes that have helped the children a lot, and more than anything to keep them busy in the summer with something positive.”

Andrew Perez ‘22 said he enjoyed working through problems with the kids in his 5th grade classroom, especially in Breakout Rooms where he could offer more personalized guidance. “I have particularly enjoyed our final invention project, and I am grateful for everything Ms. Alston, Ms. Alyssa and Ms. Kim have done to make this final project possible,” Perez said.