Elon, ABSS celebrate 15 years of the ‘It Takes A Village’ Project

Students, parents, and tutors and teachers from Elon and Alamance-Burlington School System gathered to honor 15 years of impact from the Village Project.

When Jean Rattigan-Rohr founded the “It Takes a Village” Project in 2008, there were just over 20 kids from the Alamance-Burlington School System initially involved. Rattigan-Rohr started the Village Project as a way to assist struggling young readers in the local community.

The 15th annual “It Takes a Village” event May 3, 2023, in Alumni Gym.

As more parents found out about the opportunity for their children, there were 50 students involved the next semester. Then 100. And now, 15 years later, over 9,000 students at 11 of the 12 Title I elementary schools in ABSS have been involved in the Village Project. “This is a program that is so vital that it does not fade away,” said President Connie Ledoux Book at the 15th-anniversary celebration of the Village Project on Wednesday, May 3 in Alumni Gym.

“In fact, [the Village Project] has gotten bigger, stronger and, in this time after the pandemic, even more important,” Book added.

At the 15th-anniversary event, hundreds of current Village students, their families, community partners from local ABSS schools and Elon and ABSS administrators gathered to celebrate all that the Village Project has become.

Since 2008, several other initiatives have sprouted from the Village Project — Summer in the Village, Music in the Village, and the Start Early in Medicine program. In January, it was announced that the “Little Village” initiative focused on pre-Kindergarten children would resume following a $50,000 grant from ABSS.

Jean Rattigan-Rohr, special assistant to Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book, speaks at the 15th anniversary celebration for the “It Takes a Village Project” on May 3, 2023, in Alumni Gym.

Book said that the Village Project has remained an important part of the community’s educational structure for several reasons — the commitment of local partners, support from major funding (including a $1.25 million grant from the Oak Foundation), and the trust of the parents and guardians in Elon to help their children.

“Elon’s students, faculty and staff volunteers benefit from this program as much as the children do and we thank ABSS for making sure the learning experience of the Village Project is a two-way street,” Book said.

The 15th anniversary celebration for the “It Takes a Village Project” on May 3, 2023, in Alumni Gym.

“It truly is a privilege to witness the learning that’s impacting the lives of these young students as they begin to realize their potential. It’s profound to see those moments when things start to click and when children can read the words, do the math program and you see a door start to open and the future start to unfold,” she added.

Over the 15 years of the Village Project, Elon has spent over $200,000 in books for the students involved, made lasting connections with the parents, students and partners involved, and has been a shining example of Elon’s commitment to its community.

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“With the spirit of togetherness, I am certain that in the next 15 years, the Village will climb to even higher heights and I can’t wait to see it,” Rattigan-Rohr said.

Travella Free took the reins as executive director of the Center for Access and Success in July 2022 and Sydney Simmons ’20 became program coordinator for the Village Project in June 2022. Free said that as the Village Program continues to evolve, she and Simmons will continue to “carry the torch in supporting our students, families and communities across Alamance County.”

“For 15 years, the Village Project has worked collaboratively with Elon tutors, Alamance County teachers and principals to provide a safe, healthy environment where students are given the security they need to develop and flourish and to be able to realize their hopes and dreams,” Free said.