Desmond Harrell isn't your typical Elon student.

Harrell, a senior art major at Elon, is the first person in his family to attend college. Elon Academy helped him ease his prior doubts about enrolling, and the program turned his dream into a reality.

"It was a game changer once I joined Elon Academy," Harrell said.

Elon Academy is a college access and success program at Elon University. The program is for academically promising high school students with financial needs and little to no family history of college.

Harrell joined the program as a rising high school sophomore, which required him to spend one month of each summer on the university campus for three consecutive years.

He originally enrolled as a communications major, but he eventually changed it to something he had loved doing his entire life - art.

Art is his way of relieving tension from the everyday worries of life.

"I think it's just like people listening to music," Harrell said. "Without it you can feel overwhelmed [and] you can feel stressed out. I think art is definitely that stress reliever for me."

Now in his senior year, Harrell has mastered the art of responsibility.

"I've been pretty independent with choosing what I want to do with my life, choosing how to go about doing those things and where it's going to lead me next," said Harrell.

With his college career coming to an end, Harrell says he's proud of his overall accomplishments and appreciative of his Elon experience.

He hopes to spend his postgraduate career in student affairs to mentor people just like himself.

"I've surpassed my dreams and have done things that I never thought I would do in my life," Harrell said. "I think now I'm starting to feel that I am good with people."