College Access and Success

Now in its thirteenth year, the Elon Academy is helping local youth to realize their post-secondary dreams. The Elon Academy is a non-profit college access and success program for academically promising high school students in Alamance County with a financial need and/or no family history of college. The Academy includes three consecutive summer residential experiences prior to the sophomore, junior and senior years, as well as year-round Saturday programs for students and families. The summer after high school graduation, scholars and families participate in the Elon Academy Transitions to College Program. Once on their respective college campuses, Elon Academy graduates and families are provided with continuing support through the Elon Academy College Success Program to ensure college completion. Although the Elon Academy was launched by Elon University, the program is not funded through tuition dollars. The sustainability of the Academy is dependent on grants and donations. And the financial support from the Community Fund at United Way of Alamance County has made an impact. This Community Partner Spotlight features stories from several students.

“The impact the Elon Academy had on me has been far reaching. By providing me with a support network full of mentors, colleagues, and teachers, the Elon Academy gave me my first introduction to mentoring as well as cultivating within me the desire to give back to the community. Since many of my mentors from Elon were teachers, I was inspired and reassured in my decision to become a teacher and I still benefit from their knowledge and guidance today. Now, I am teaching English as an adult ESL teacher while going to graduate school. I believe that my focus and drive for continuing my education is partially due to the Elon Academy’s summer program which kept me focused on schoolwork and educating myself during the long, summer days.

The Elon Academy gave me the knowledge, skills, and resources to succeed not only in college, but also in my personal and professional life. The time management skills that I have learned in the Leadership class at Elon Academy has definitely assisted me in more efficiently organizing my day and priorities. By organizing my day, I have been able to stay on top of all my work and school responsibilities.

Not only was the academy beneficial to my continued learning, it was also helpful while I was in high school. Elon Academy’s programs have been a great supplement to my high school education since, before attending the academy, I had no real idea what was needed to apply for college, scholarships or what to expect living on a college campus. Even now, I still feel fortunate that I was given the opportunity to attend Elon Academy and become an Alpha Scholar because I see so many students and parents who do not know how to navigate a college or even how to apply to one.

Overall, with the assistance of so many mentors and staff, I feel more passionate in pursuing my dream of being a teacher in education and hoping, one day, to pass on the inspirations and help that Elon Academy has shown me to future students and seekers of knowledge.”

Sarah Rawls, Elon Academy Alpha Scholar, 2010 graduate of Walter M. Williams HS, 2014 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill in Asian studies with a minor in Hispanic studies, 2018 graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia with a Master’s Degree in TESOL, Entering the PhD program at Temple University in Applied Linguistics in the fall of 2018


“Elon Academy was a blessing. This program helped me write my first resume and prepare essays for my college applications. They took me to tour college campuses, which sparked my eventual undergrad experience at Wake Forest University. Their support followed me through college and encouraged me to do my best and seek even higher education. Without this institution, that functioned as my second family, I do not believe that I would be able to look back and think to myself, “look how far I have come.”

Seth Gerringer, Elon Academy Gamma Scholar, 2012 graduate of Hugh M. Cummings HS, 2016 graduate of Wake Forest University with a major in Religious Studies, minors in Philosophy and Political Science, December 2018 graduate of Elon Law School




“The Elon Academy has been a part of my life for about eight years now and I am truly thankful for all the support and guidance they have provided me. Without the Elon Academy, I doubt I would have found the scholarships that afforded me the opportunity to go to Elon University. Throughout college, the Elon Academy supported me with my school-life balance by meeting with me regularly during my first semester of college and periodically throughout the remaining years. They also helped me develop my leadership skills by employing me as a mentor and lead mentor during the summer residential program. The Elon Academy helped me step out of my comfort zone and challenged me to be a better student and person. I think about the impact the Elon Academy has had on my life regularly and am always trying to find ways to give back. I have been inspired to pursue a Master’s in Higher Education because of the experiences I had with the Elon Academy. Overall, the Elon Academy means so much to me and my family it is difficult to put into words how thankful I am for this opportunity.”

Jillian Epperson, Elon Academy Epsilon Scholar, 2014 graduate of River Mill Academy, 2018 graduate of Elon University with a BA in political science, Jillian is currently enrolled in the inaugural class of Elon’s Master of Arts in Higher Education



“After finishing my last year of middle school, I remember having mixed feelings about what was to come in the near future. I was excited that I would be a high schooler in a few months, but nervous about what would come after. I had seen terms like “college” and “university” throughout my time in school, but I didn’t really know much about them since no one in my family was ever given the chance to attend a college or university. Still, I knew that I wanted to do more than just finish high school and to follow the hard path that my parents had lived. This is why when one of my 9th grade teachers talked to me about the Elon Academy, I knew that this was the exact opportunity I was looking for. So I applied, interviewed, and waited. I still remember getting called out of class one afternoon just to find out that I was one of three students chosen from my high school. However, I knew that I still had a lot of work to do. Fast forward three years of working harder than ever before in my classes and three years of learning about college with the Elon Academy, I applied and was accepted into three different universities. I was going to be a first-generation college student. Going to college was no longer a dream, but a reality. Fast forward four more years and now I am a rising senior in Civil Engineering at North Carolina State University. This journey was not easy and I can honestly say without a doubt that I would not be where I am today without the help of my family and everyone at the Elon Academy.”

Juan Tisnado, Elon Academy Eta Scholar, 2015 graduate of Walter M. Williams HS, 2019 upcoming graduate of NC State University with a B.S. in Civil Engineering, Inducted into the NCSU chapter of Chi Epsilon, the Civil Engineering Honor Society, Vice President for the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Captain for the NCSU Concrete Canoe Team that placed 3rd at a regional conference

To join United Way of Alamance County in this important work, please support our Community Fund with a donation