New fellows prepare for year of service with Alamance County organizations

Six members of the Class of 2023 participated in a signing ceremony on Tuesday to formalize their participation in the service-year program offered by Elon in partnership with local organizations. Six fellows who have completed their year of service were also recognized.

Six members of the Class of 2023 gathered with friends and family in Clohan Theatre in the Inman Admissions Welcome Center on Tuesday to formally begin what will be a year of service working in organizations that support the residents of Alamance County.

These new Elon graduates will spend the coming year as Elon Year of Service Fellows with roles that will focus on the health and well-being of Alamance County as well as furthering educational success and economic opportunity in partnership with six community organizations. This is the ninth cohort of Elon alumni to participate in the unique collaboration that is designed to lend support to these community partners while delivering a valuable professional experience to the fellows. The program is jointly funded by the university and the community partners and is co-chaired by Laurie Judge, senior associate director of career services in Elon’s Student Professional Development Center, and Lexy Roberts ’19, executive director of Alamance Achieves.

Tuesday’s event was an opportunity to look ahead at what the new fellows will accomplish during the next year, and it was also a chance to look back at the achievements of the 2022-2023 cohort of fellows. Since their graduation from Elon last May, members of the program’s eighth cohort — Isabella DeLaGarza, Taylor Russ, Sarah Peake, Jazmin Campbell, Grace Holmes and Toni Parker — have been honing their professional skills, developing new connections with the community and working to promote health, wellness and education throughout Alamance County. They’ve become productive members of the teams at Alamance Achieves, Healthy Alamance, Impact Alamance, the Alamance County Health Department, the City of Burlington’s Economic Development Department and Alamance Regional Medical Center.

Jim Piatt, senior vice president for university advancement and external affairs, drew parallels between the oak tree — “Elon” is the Hebrew word for oak — and the impact that the Year of Service Graduate Fellow program has on the community and those who participate. The roots of the oak are vital to the tree and to the ecosystem more broadly, just as the connections fostered through the fellows program enhance the community, Piatt said. “We stand stronger when we are connected by our roots,” he said.

Preston Hammock, senior vice president and a regional president for Cone Health, was among those who came together a decade ago to lay the groundwork for the program. Hammock was head of Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington at the time, and he shared how thrilling it was to see an initial conversation with President Emeritus Leo M. Lambert and former Provost Steven House turn into such an impactful program. “What this is about is seeking what making change in a community means at a practical level,” Hammock said Tuesday. “The real magic is seeing how to turn possibilities into action.”

Fellows who were concluding their service offered their thoughts on how they had grown, what they had learned and what lies next for them as they conclude their service. Themes running through their comments were those of connection, community, empowerment, confidence and contribution. Several noted how daunting the work ahead had seemed days or weeks into their service year, only to find themselves settling into the work as time went on.

During the past year, they would oversee grant applications securing hundreds of thousands of dollars in support for vital community programs. They would present program updates to local government officials and visit other communities to learn insights that would impact their work. And the group would grow closer to their mentors, to each other and to the Alamance County community.

“Over the past year, I have learned more about Alamance County than I did in the four years prior,” Campbell told those gathered in Clohan Theatre. “Through this fellowship, I have gained confidence, trust in my skills and my knowledge above all.”

Following a presentation of gifts to the outgoing fellows, the new fellows joined their new mentors in signing the commitment agreement to close the ceremony. They will begin their new roles following Commencement on Friday, May 19.

2023-24 Elon Year of Service Fellows

Megan Curling, Cone Health and Alamance Regional Medical Center

Majoring in public health studies and journalism, Megan Curling has been a Communications Fellow and Lumen Scholar at Elon while serving in leadership roles with student and university organizations. An active student leader, Curling served as vice president of finance for the Student Government Association during her senior year, a role that saw her managing the organization’s budget as comptroller for the nine-person finance board. She was deeply involved in LEAF (Lutherans, Episcopalians and Friends) during her four years at Elon, serving as the organization’s president during her senior year. She was a student representative on the 1923 Engagement Committee, which worked to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1923 fire at Elon, and was a student board member of the Harvest Table Culinary Group, which provides dining services at Elon.

Curling is a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society, the Tau Upsilon Alpha National Human Service Studies Honor Society and the Kappa Omicron Nu National Human Services Honor Society. She received the Outstanding Senior Award in Journalism from the School of Communications in April and the William Moseley Brown Leadership Award at the Omicron Delta Kappa awards ceremony in May.

In her application to become a fellow, Curling explained that she has found a passion for the intersection of her two main areas of study — public health and journalism — and has come to love the Alamance County community. She said she values the partnerships that the university has cultivated through the years, and looks forward to building on that as a year of service fellow. “The goals of this program to strengthen these existing partnerships and better the lives of our neighbors are ones that directly correlate with my personal and professional goals,” Curling said.

Shauna Galvin, Impact Alamance

Shauna Galvin, who majored in public health studies at Elon, was a member of the women’s tennis team during her time at Elon who was named an Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar-Athlete and a member of the CAA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll for multiple years.

A Provost Scholar, Galvin conducted extensive research into the prevalence of maternal morbidity by race or ethnicity and by borough in New York City. Her research determined that the Black community faces severe disparities in maternal morbidity and that the maternal health outcomes within the Latinx community are not adequately examined. She’s a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society and Kappa Omicron Nu, the leading honor society for students in human sciences fields.

Deeply involved in service to the community as an Elon student, Galvin volunteered with the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Alamance County, the “It Takes a Village” Project and Rise Against Hunger, an effort that last fall packaged more than 13,000 meals for Alamance County residents in need.

Galvin said in her application to become a  fellow that the work ethic and time management skills she grew as a student-athlete combined with the knowledge and skills she developed as a public health studies major will benefit her work as a year of service fellow. “These skills include developing cultural humility, conducting community-based participatory research and community needs assessment, and adopting a community-based view regarding health issues,” Galvin said. “I know that Alamance County is a special place with lots to offer, but it is also a place that has a variety of important needs. As mentioned within the (fellows) program purpose, I would cherish an opportunity to help in ‘developing and implementing solutions to improve health, education and economic development in Alamance County.”

Madi Gilgo, Harwood Institute

With majors in journalism and strategic communications and minors in psychology and leadership studies, Madi Gilgo is focused on telling the untold stories of the underrepresented in her community.

At Elon, she has served as executive director of leadership and development at the Kernodle Center for Civic Life. It’s a role that saw her building new training and community-building opportunities for more than 70 student leaders in Elon Volunteers! and directing peer mentorship programs in the office. During summer 2022, she served as a promotions and entertainment intern with the Burlington Sock Puppets baseball team and on campus, she was a student representative on the Leadership Studies Minor Advisory Board.

Gilgo says that she “found a sense of home in Alamance County” while she was an Elon student through service opportunities. She is looking forward to helping improve systems related to education, health care, accessibility, transportation and other areas through her work as a year of service fellow. “After spending extensive time with my community both on and off Elon’s campus, I want to continue some of the work I’ve done in my undergraduate career and further work in Alamance County,” Gilgo said in her application to become a fellow. “A Community cannot be healthy or function optimally if it fails to serve all its members equitably.”

Moriah Griffin, Alamance Achieves

A political science and policy studies major with a minor in African and African-American Studies, Moriah Griffin is an Odyssey Scholar who during her time as an Elon student participated in a program at the Foundation for International Education in London.

At Elon, she served as an office assistant in the Inman Admissions Welcome Center, and as a front desk attendant at the Moseley Student Center. Griffin was selected for membership in the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society and was recognized multiple times in the annual Phillips-Perry Black Excellence Awards for academic achievement.

Griffin said when applying to the program that she is passionate about education policy having seen throughout her life the difference an education can make, particularly in her work as a volunteer with the “It Takes a Village” Project. “This program has given me experience working with children and seeing what things are needed in an elementary school and how different kids learn,” Griffin said.

She’s looking forward to leveraging the skills and knowledge she’s gained as a political science and policy studies major as well as her work in the Moseley Center and the Office of Admissions.

Lily Kays, City of Burlington Economic Development Department

Lily Kays, who majored in political science with minors in theatre arts and women, gender and sexuality studies, served as president of the senior class during their final year at Elon and was named to the President’s List and Dean’s List multiple times.

Kays was extensively involved across campus as an Elon student and was dedicated to serving the broader community as well. They were a coordinator with the CityGate Dream Center in Burlington, where they worked with Latinx children and their families on community-building programs, tutoring and sports, and they volunteered with the Burlington Housing Authority. Lily was a student worker in the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life at Elon and served as an executive intern in the Office of the President. As an intern with “Spirit and Pride” at Elon, they created and co-hosted the “Queer and Divine” podcast that focuses on the intersectional experiences of students and faculty with their sexuality and spirituality.

Kays said they have a passion for nonprofit work and are excited about the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the community. “In my four years here, I have learned not only about the Alamance County community, but learned more about the systems and structures that benefit or hurt local communities,” Kays said. “I am committed to service, working effectively with diverse populations and continuing to enhance my strong organizational and communications skills.”

Ashley Pehan, Alamance County Health Department

Ashley Pehan majored in chemistry and Spanish at Elon, with time spent studying in Sevilla, Spain. She was named to the President’s List and Dean’s List multiple times, and she served as a research assistant in the Department of Chemistry. During the summer before her junior year, Pehan completed a research and development internship with BONA in Monroe, N.C., with work on the synthesis and efficacy testing of new eco-friendly hardwood floor cleaners.

Pehan’s interest in martial arts included serving as an assistant instructor of jiu-jitsu at Gracie Burlington Jiu-Jitsu and as president of the Mixed Martial Arts Club on campus. She volunteered with the “It Takes a Village” Project and served as a volunteer translator at the Open Door Clinic in Burlington.

When applying to the year of service fellows program, Pehan emphasized how her passion for volunteering in her community and connecting with people has grown while she’s been a student at Elon. “Each day I use my passion to teach children and watching them grow in martial arts and character,” Pehan said of her work with Gracie Burlington Jiu-Jitsu. “At the Alamance Open Door Clinic, I use my Spanish skills to help those without insurance make doctor’s appointments and to translate for those who have difficulty speaking English. … I believe the Year of Service program can benefit me as a pre-med student to understand the diverse community I will one day be treating.