Elon students share their community-based learning experiences

With support from the Kernodle Center for Civic Life, students in over 42 courses across disciplines worked with local community partner organizations. Below, ten students of varying majors share experiences from community-based learning courses this spring.

With support from the Kernodle Center for Civic Life, students in over 42 courses across disciplines worked with local community partner organizations during the spring semester. These 10 students from varying majors share about their experiences this spring in community-based learning courses.

Ella Arnold ‘24 
Course: Health Communications Senior Seminar, Professor Julie Lellis

Ella Arnold ‘24, second from right, developed a health campaign alongside fellow Elon students and leaders with Cone Health and the Warnersville Recreation Center.

By completing primary research with Cone Health and Warnersville Recreation Center, Ella Arnold ‘24 was able to speak with health workers, community leaders, and residents in Greensboro’s Warnersville neighborhood.

Along with her class group, Arnold worked to create a campaign with goals to address health issues for children ages 5-12 and their families, educate the community about health resources, and create opportunities for healthy activities. “This experience not only gave me first-hand involvement in client work but also in community development,” Arnold said. “It was so rewarding to identify health issues with Warnersville residents and create an actionable plan that addressed their needs.”

Summer Galletta ‘27 
Course: Healthcare Relationships, Associate Professor Elizabeth Van Horn 

Summer Galletta ‘27

Working with Kopper Top Life Learning Center, Summer Galletta ‘27 was able to make an impact by volunteering to assist with pet therapy and aided in creating an uplifting and positive environment.

The nursing major helped with guiding therapy pets such as dogs, cats and rabbits alongside Kopper Top participants. Galletta noted the influence that this experience had on her in consideration of her future career path. “The interactions with elderly individuals and disabled adults and seeing the difference the therapy pets made deeply resonated with me,” she said. “This experience not only deepened my understanding of compassionate care but also solidified my decision to pursue a career in nursing.”

Grayson Kelly ‘25 
Course: Strategic Writing, Professor Julie Lellis 

Grayson Kelly ’25

As part of her Strategic Writing course, Grayson Kelly ‘25 collaborated with a local health foundation, Impact Alamance, to write press releases and narrative stories and create fliers for events.

Working toward creating healthy environments and building healthy communities by investing in collective, long-term, measurable change is a part of the important work that Impact Alamance does. Kelly was able to connect with local community members to learn about projects funded by Impact Alamance, such as the Queen’s Guidance program. Kelly described the influence this experience had on her. “This experience had a huge impact not only on my academic career but also my future professional career,” Kelly said. “I learned so much from the team at Impact Alamance and really took into consideration their feedback regarding all the pieces I wrote.”

Julia Lapporte ‘24 
Course: Human Resource Management Strategy and Consulting, Associate Professor Brian Lyons 

Julia Lapporte ‘24

“This experience reminded me that no matter how overwhelming a project may appear, setting goals and breaking those down into smaller tasks can make the work seem much less intimidating,” said Julia Lapporte ‘24

Lapporte utilized the skills of her major in human resource management spending the spring semester partnered with CrossRoads, a local nonprofit organization, as part of her Human Resource Management Strategy and Consulting course. CrossRoads works with survivors of sexual violence, exploitation, and maltreatment, and staff there needed assistance with several projects. Lapporte and her groupmates updated the CrossRoads employee handbook, created a policies document, and performed a benefits benchmark analysis to compare CrossRoads’ benefits to those of their competitors.

Whitney McDonnell ‘24 
Course: Arts Administration Senior Seminar, Associate Professor David McGraw 

Along with her classmates, Whitney McDonnell ‘24 put her arts administration experience to work coordinating logistics for the Amplify Black Voices Festival, an event that brings together six local college theater departments.

McDonnell served as the student liaison between her class and the larger event planning committee, maintaining communication between all partners to create a successful event. “There are so many creatives around Elon’s campus who are passionate about storytelling, and it was wonderful to contribute to amplifying the voices of local Black playwrights,” McDonnell said.

Whitney McDonnell ’24 poses with cast, crew, and fellow classmates at the kickoff event for the Amplify Black Voices Festival

Grace McGowan ‘26 
Course: Foundations of Leadership, Instructor Leslie Blank  

Grace McGowan ’26

Human service studies major Grace McGowan ‘26 spent the semester volunteering in a third-grade classroom at Newlin Elementary School in Burlington.

She spent several hours each week working with students individually to support the classroom teacher. Students in Instructor Leslie Blank’s Foundations of Leadership course serve at Newlin throughout the entire semester, applying the concepts they learn in the classroom to their service and using their experiences in the elementary school classrooms for critical reflection, teamwork, and personal leadership development.

“I was able to read with them, help them with math, and do worksheets,” McGowan said of working with the students. “This course gave me experience working with children and I was able to gain experience in a leadership position.”

Mia O’Brien ‘27 and Erika Seelaus ‘27 
Course: Intro to Human Service Studies, Assistant Professor Tony Reyes

Each semester, students in Assistant Professor Tony Reyes’s Introduction to Human Service Studies course serve 20 to 30 hours with a variety of local organizations. The students work alongside their chosen community partner to provide support with day-to-day operations and programming.

Mia O’Brien ‘27 worked with the CityGate Dream Center’s after-school program for local youth in East Burlington. She enjoyed helping to provide a fun and safe place for kids to learn and grow outside of school.

“My experience through the course opened my eyes to life outside of the “Elon bubble,” O’Brien said. “Working with the students allowed me to apply and expand the knowledge I gained through hands-on experience. Overall, being a part of CityGate Dream Center as a volunteer was extremely rewarding and a lot of fun.”

Human resource management major Erika Seelaus ‘27 served at Positive Attitude Youth Center, assisting children ages 3 to 12 in an afterschool program. Seelaus helped children with homework, participated with them in games and sports, and contributed to creating a positive environment. “The opportunity has impacted me because a belief that I stand by is that no kids deserve to mature faster than they are supposed to,” Seelaus said. “A child’s future and opportunities should not be determined by their zip code or financial resources.”

Rane Parr ‘24 
Course: Senior Engineering Design, Assistant Professor Will Pluer 
Engineering major Rane Parr ’24 had a unique community-based learning experience, getting the opportunity to work on a project with local organizations for a full academic year in Assistant Professor Will Pluer’s Senior Engineering Design course. Parr’s team sought to design a Best-Management Practice (BMP) to mitigate standing water from regular fire hydrant flushing in South Graham Municipal Park. Ultimately, the student team presented a vegetated swale design coupled with a concrete level spreader to keep pathways clear of flooding for park visitors.

“This project has been one of my favorite experiences during my time at Elon,” Parr said. “As someone who went to school in this community and visited this park growing up, working to correct an issue in my own community was particularly meaningful. This experience prepares me to execute professional engineering projects in my field. I can definitively say that after this course sequence, I feel more confident in my abilities as a budding engineer.”

Rane Parr ’24, fifth from right, stands alongside fellow team members and community partner representatives after presenting final designs for standing water mitigation at South Graham Municipal Park.

Allison Silvernale ‘25 
Course: Fundamentals of Income Taxation, Professor Ray Knight 

A long-standing partnership between United Way of Alamance County and Professor Ray Knight has provided support for a vital resource in the local community – free tax preparation.

As part of the Fundamentals of Income Taxation course, Allison Silvernale ‘25 worked with United Way’s “Tax Time” program to prepare tax returns for Alamance County residents. The accounting major shared that the partnership allowed her to gain valuable experience. “I was exposed to a variety of tax returns and was able to translate the knowledge gained to what I was learning inside the classroom,” Silvernale said.