Photo of Mariatu Okonofua

Mariatu Okonofua

Agency Placement :

Alamance Achieves

Undergraduate Major(s) :

Policy Studies and Sociology; minors in Criminal Justice Studies and Political Science

Elon Undergraduate Experience:

Elon exposed me to the concept of self-determination in a way I had not yet experienced. In allowing me to explore a wide variety of subjects via its liberal model, I was able to craft my own unique path towards education policy. In addition to my interdisciplinary coursework within the Anthropology & Sociology and Political Science & Policy Studies departments, this included opportunities to serve as a student teacher at Walter M. Williams High School, intern in D.C. with an immigration-focused legal services non-profit, engage in multiple year-long undergraduate research projects—which I later presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. I was also able to take advantage of experiences such as helping to launch the inaugural Black Business EXPOSEition, work as an Executive Intern for both the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Inclusive Excellence, join the life-long sisterhood of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., revitalize Elon’s Muslim student organization, represent student perspectives and voices on the President’s Student Leadership Advisory Council and in the SGA Senate, work as a student coordinator for Black Student Initiatives in the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education, a Senior Student Ambassador in the Student Professional Development Center, and a College Access Team Mentor with Elon Academy, in addition to many other transformative experiences. I also used my time at Elon to volunteer within the surrounding community by serving as a volunteer mentor with Alamance Girls in Motion and at the Positive Attitude Youth Center. In participating in all of these different activities and clubs throughout my Elon career, I was able to gain some early practical experience in public service and equity work, which I am excited to expound upon in my work with Alamance Achieves over this coming year.

Highlights of Service Year :

In the time that I have worked with Alamance Achieves, I have been able to gain an increasingly better understanding of what it takes to make educational equity possible within the realm of public education. This has included working alongside an amazing staff dedicated to providing awareness towards issues of disparity, meeting with different members in community, facilitating the Cradle to Career Simulation—a real-time simulation of how continuous community investment in all children’s education can affect their lives and career outcomes—for different community organizations, helping to coordinate the launch of the Early Grade Network for grade-level reading. Additionally, I have been able to aid in facilitating conversations between different early childhood service providers around kindergarten readiness of the state’s Birth-5 Strategic Plan, and serve as a community partner for the Department of Social Service’s Child and Family Team. Not only has my experience thus far reaffirmed my decision to pursue a career in educational policy, it has also instilled in me, a deeper appreciation for racial equity and its underlying role in all facets of public service

Photo of Alexis Roberts

Alexis Roberts

Field Placement:

Alamance Achieves

Undergraduate Major(s):

Public Health

Elon Undergraduate Experience :

My time at Elon as an undergrad can be summed up in experiential learning, global engagement, and leadership in and out of the classroom. Entering into Elon as a transfer student provided me a non-traditional experience of Elon. Had it not been for the mentorship, relationships, and opportunities provided by Elon I would not be where I am today. I was able to conduct undergraduate research, investigating the experience of black motherhood. Study abroad on multiple programs that took me around the world to Ghana, Semester at Sea, and Israel which gave me invaluable global perspectives. Lastly, I was able to benefit from the various models of mentorship woven through Elon’s programs from being in and a part of the SMART program to working with transfer students in New Student Orientation. It is all of these experiences that show Elon’s investment in the whole individual not just student experience.

Highlights of Service Year :

Working at Alamance Achieves has provided me the unique opportunity to understand the complexities of systems change work. As conveners and collaborators, I have been able to share the table with community leaders and partners as they strategize around what equitable education looks like within Alamance County. This work has broken down my traditional perceptions around non-profit work as programmatic and illuminated the possibilities of authentic systems change. In addition, this service year as allowed me to get proximate with the work happening within Alamance County. While at Elon I did not engage with the community, but in the first few months of working within the county I have been able to develop meaningful relationships with community partners/members while learning about the assets and challenges that Alamance County face. The program has equipped me with the tools to meaningfully engage with community, and that I will take with me everywhere I go.