Freedom Scholars program selects inaugural cohort of high school students

Fifteen rising high school seniors from Alamance-Burlington School System will begin the yearlong Freedom Scholars program this summer with a range of activities focused on the study of democracy and civic engagement.

The Elon University Freedom Scholars, a college access and civic engagement program, has selected its inaugural cohort of 15 students from Alamance-Burlington School System high schools.

Program Director Prudence Layne and Assistant Director Joel Shelton were joined by district and school administrators in delivering the news to the accepted students in surprise visits to their schools around the county earlier this month. The news was met with exclamations, cheers, tears, applause and excited phone calls to parents.

Layne shared her own excitement as she noted the cohort’s broad diversities, burgeoning activism in their schools and communities, their plans to pursue college, and ambitious career goals. “All the students bring life experiences and perspectives that will enrich all of our experiences,” Layne said. “I am so excited to embark on this journey with them.”

Freedom Scholars is a year-long college access program for local high school juniors focused on the study of democracy and civic engagement that is headed by Layne, an associate professor of English. Assistant Professor of Philosophy Lauren Guilmette and Assistant Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies Joel Shelton and English/Teacher Education major Ashley Tatum ’22 comprise the Leadership Team for 2022-23.

Announced in 2020, the program received a $300,000 Knowledge for Freedom grant from The Teagle Foundation last year. The Teagle Foundation works to support and strengthen liberal arts education in the service of effective citizenship and crafting meaningful lives. Its Knowledge for Freedom programs invite underserved high school students to study and engage with literature and philosophies that raise deep questions about leading lives of purpose and civic responsibility.

The program includes a two-week, intensive, residential experience at Elon for the rising seniors from the Alamance-Burlington School System this summer followed by a year of programming and college application support. Throughout the program, Freedom Scholars will collaborate with and build mentoring networks that include an Elon undergraduate student mentor and a civic leader mentor.

With the support of their mentors, each scholar will plan and execute a civic project in their local communities. At the end of their senior year of high school, they will present their work at the Freedom Scholars Symposium, which will also serve as the welcoming event for the next incoming cohort of scholars.

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As part of the application process, students detailed their interest in the program, submitted a high school transcript and a letter of recommendation from a high school teacher, coach or administrator, who attested to the student’s academic abilities and leadership.

Participation in the program is free to students. Each Freedom Scholar will receive an $800 honorarium, take college-level classes, access Elon University campus resources, and receive all their books, materials and equipment for free.

More information about the Freedom Scholars program, including details about becoming a student or civic leader mentor, is available here.

Freedom Scholars Inaugural Cohort, 2022 – 2023

Gabriel Allred, Ray Street Academy

Fatima Barillas Coronado, Graham High School

Danielle Bunker, Eastern Alamance High School

Taylor Duque, Graham High School

Samuel Gutierrez Moreno, Graham High School

Isiah Lee Morgan, Western Alamance High School

Daniela Muñoz, Williams High School

Halli Nguyen, Williams High School

Kaylynn Olivere, Western Alamance High School

Ashley Ramirez-Martinez, ABSS Early College

Carlos Rivas Enriquez, Cummings High School

Serenity Richardson, Williams High School

Jakayla Simmons, Williams High School

Nevaeh Stroud, Southern Alamance High School

Tayloir Wiley, Williams High School