Incoming students get a taste of Elon service opportunities through Engage first-year summer experience

Twenty incoming first-year Elon students spent a week with on-campus organizations and community partners to get first-hand experience of service opportunities Elon provides.

Thousands of students throughout the years have come through Elon University and during their time have grown not only as professionals in their respective fields but as engaged civic leaders.

Twenty members of the incoming Class of 2026 students got a taste of all the university offers to the community it inhabits by participating in the Engage: Community Engagement in Alamance County first-year summer experience.

The First-Year Summer Experiences (FSE) program Engage helped familiarize incoming Elon University students with downtown Burlington Thursday, July 14, 2022. The twenty students in the program were led on a tour by Assistant Director for Community Partnerships Sara Beth Hardy, left, before they explored a bit on their own and later had dinner.

“We try to organize a few different service opportunities during the week, along with opportunities for students to get to know more about what it’s like to be a student here on campus,” said Kyle Anderson, associate director of the Kernodle Center for Civic Life. “Give them a chance to meet some student leaders, faculty and staff on campus but then also get off campus and see some fun parts of the area they may not see otherwise.”

The Engage program is a collaboration between the Kernodle Center and New Student Programs for incoming first-year students and helps them feel confident and prepared for college life before the fall semester begins. Engage is also one of many First-Year Sumer Experiences organized by New Student Programs and other departments on campus.

Austin Hart ’26 is shown here speaking about his motivation for participating in the program.

During the four-day, three-night experience, the students spent time at the Maker Hub, the Center for Leadership and the Boys & Girls Club of Alamance County. They participated in a Habitat for Humanity build and went on a tour of downtown Burlington, among other things.

“Helping students feel an early sense of connection to Elon. It’d be great to have folks involved in our office but even if they’re not, I hope they see themselves as members of the larger Alamance County community,” Anderson said.

Some of the 20 students in this summer’s cohort will arrive at Elon with a strong background in volunteer work. Austin Hart ‘26 spent time in Guatemala and the Turks and Caicos Islands with the Jack and Jill of America, Inc., a service-oriented youth leadership organization.

Hart was also involved in less exploratory service opportunities, such as local environmental cleanups and community outreach programs and wanted to continue that experience as an Elon student.

“I thought it would be nice to meet people and get to know the lay of the land before school starts,” Hart said.

Molly Laws ’26 during the downtown Burlington tour during the First-Year Summer Experience Engage program.

Molly Laws ’26, a secondary education major, is a part of the PACE Program at Elon which gives incoming students access to a registry of jobs created specifically for them. Laws hopes to join the Kernodle Center as an ambassador for the organization and engage her fellow students to interact with the community as well.

Before arriving for the week-long Engage program, Laws thought it would be a serious and stressful affair. But after interacting with her classmates, community members and current Elon students who have been involved with the Kernodle Center for years, she saw just how fun the service opportunities can be.

She’s glad that she was able to get a sneak peek into what Elon offers first-hand, and not through images on a website or brochure.

“You can see pictures, but pictures don’t tell a story the way people do,” Laws said.