Elon University’s 2019 Homecoming Court is comprised of 10 seniors — nine women and one man — who have been nominated to represent their organizations, class and university as a whole. Each candidate is running for the title of homecoming royal to support their chosen philanthropy.
In previous years, homecoming royals received a prize of $100 to donate to their philanthropies. According to Hailey Jurgens, head of the Homecoming Court for the Student Government Association, no donation will be awarded to the royals this year because of the changes in the SGA budget.
Students can vote for homecoming royalty on Phoenix Connect anytime before Thursday, Oct. 31. The royals will be announced during the football game this weekend against the College of William & Mary on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Rhodes Stadium.
This year could be Amanda Ruvolo’s second time on Homecoming Court after she was nominated during her senior year of high school. Ruvolo, who is a history with teacher licensure major from Stillwater, New Jersey, said the possibility of being on the court again is symbolic of her personal progression and eternal school spirit.
“I’m a tour guide, and I love being a personal cheerleader for Elon,” Ruvolo said.
Ruvolo is running to raise awareness for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. She said the disease deeply affected one of her closest friends. After seeing the toll it took on her friend’s family, Ruvolo said she decided she wanted to help support the cause in any way she could.
“I love Homecoming because it’s not just about voting for whoever, it’s voting for a cause,” Ruvolo said.
Ruvolo works as a crew member in Turner Theatre, a tour guide and a diversity ambassador in the Office of Admissions and has served as an orientation leader. She is also involved with the Intersect Conference for Leadership and Diversity and is a member of Kappa Delta sorority.
Laura Rossi said she imagined Homecoming Court as a “fun opportunity” and was thrilled to be nominated. The political science and policy studies double major from Cleveland, Ohio said being on the court is a way to recognize all of her accomplishments up to this point.
“I want to be as involved as possible during my last year, so I thought this was a great opportunity to take,” Rossi said. “I think an involved campus is one of the most important aspects of a student body and a community.”
Rossi said she hopes to attend law school next fall and is running on behalf of the Innocence Project, a legal advocacy organization that works to exonerate individuals who were wrongfully convicted. She said her passion for the subject has determined her academics and career goals.
“In an era of mass incarceration, even if we have a low percentage of innocent people still in jail, that is a substantial number of individuals whose lives [and] whose families have been vastly affected,” Rossi said.
Rossi serves as the Student Government Association senior class vice president and a global ambassador for the Global Education Center and is a polling associate for the Elon Poll.
Derrick Luster, a political science major from Richmond, Virginia, said his Elon experience has been a “rocky road” and has motivated him to apply for Homecoming Court. After a smooth transition into college, Luster encountered mental health issues and became over involved on campus but ended up turning to his community for support.
“There were a few times when I wanted to transfer because I didn’t know if I could make it here, but Elon really uplifted me and kept me here,” Luster said. “I had a community to uplift me in my time of need, and that’s something that I want to encourage other people to do.”
Luster volunteers with the Burlington Housing Authority, a local organization which provides housing for low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities. He said he hopes running on behalf of this initiative will encourage more volunteers to help build homes for those in need.
“I really want my platform to be one that encourages people to get more involved in the Burlington community,” Luster said. “There’s some spectacular people in this community that people don’t get the chance to meet or work with.”
Luster is a member of the 2020-2030 Strategic Planning Committee and the Senior Class Giving Committee and works at the Center for Race, Ethnicity & Diversity Education and Campus Recreation & Wellness.
For Stacey Cohn, an acting and strategic communications double major from Plano, Texas, running for Homecoming Court was not only about supporting her philanthropy but about representing performing arts students as well.
“The performing arts deserve to be represented on the court, especially since the performing arts students are some of the most involved people that I know,” Cohn said. “A lot of people don’t get the credit that they deserve.”
While Cohn is passionate about several philanthropies, including Planned Parenthood and Everytown for Gun Safety, she is running on behalf of Family Abuse Services of America to help break the stigma surrounding domestic violence. She said while one in four women and one in seven men are impacted by domestic violence, people are reluctant to talk about it.
“It’s important to shed light on the subject and also to give back to the people who are doing something in the community to take direct action,” Cohn said.
Aside from student theater, she is a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority and is the treasurer of the Alpha Psi Omega theatre honor society. She is also an Elon College Fellow and is currently working on her honors thesis.
Noor Irshaidat, an international business and international studies double major from Amman, Jordan, tried applying for homecoming court as a freshman. Now a senior, she finally achieved her four-year goal of receiving a nomination.
“If that shows anything, it shows that I was super excited and that this is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Irshaidat said. “I think I’ve been able to be more involved and worked so hard on myself to be part of this very honorable court.”
Irshaidat is running on behalf of Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, to improve the cancer survival rate, decrease incidents of cancer and improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their caretakers. She hopes to support her family members who have been affected by the disease.
Irshaidat is a member of the Elon International Society and serves as the Student Government Association senior class president. She is also a Leadership Fellow and works as a group exercise instructor at Campus Recreation & Wellness.
For Katherine Klinger, a human service studies major from Atlanta, Georgia, running for Homecoming Court was all about supporting her cause.
Klinger is running on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an organization whose mission is to “save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.” In the wake of five recent student suicides at Elon University, Klinger feels it is an ideal time to raise awareness about what she says is an “epidemic.”
“I’m a suicide survivor, and I’ve also lost some very important people in my life to suicide,” Klinger said. “It was a cause that I dedicated myself to after surviving because I was given a second chance at life that a lot of people are not given.”
Along with her position as a student leader in the Catholic Campus Ministry, Klinger is a Leadership Fellow, is involved with Elon Volunteers and is a member of Kappa Delta sorority.
Arianne Payne said she is not the typical Elon University student. The communication design and English double major from Chicago is also a first-generation college student and a low-income woman of color. She said she is proud to represent those identities on Homecoming Court.
“Navigating those identities creates unique challenges for me,” Payne said. “But my story is one of overcoming and of grit and determination, and I don’t take it lightly that I’m here.”
With the campaign slogan “Progress Takes Payne,” Payne is running in support of the Schuler Scholar Program, of which she is a part of and Odyssey Scholars. The program supports college access for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students from their freshman year of high school until they graduate college.
Payne works as a diversity ambassador in the Office of Admissions, thinking of ways to bring a more diverse student body to campus and help those students succeed. She also said she enjoys helping students find where they belong through her work as a resident assistant.
In addition to her campus jobs, Payne is a Lumen Scholar and is currently writing a collection of short stories based on her research on Native American and African American environmental injustices.
Sara Spicker, a biochemistry major from Los Angeles, said she embodies Elon’s values of honesty and integrity but was most impressed with her answers to the “resilience” portion of the Homecoming Court application.
In her essay, Spicker discussed meeting with Jon Dooley, vice president for student life, to address her concerns after gunfire outside the Elon Chabad house damaged a car on Yom Kippur.
“Dr. Dooley came to Shabbat for the first time at that organization, and it felt really cool to see that change and be a part of that change,” Spicker said. “I felt really resilient in the moment because it’s a scary situation doing something about it.”
Spicker is running on behalf of her own philanthropy, Bracelets of Hope, which makes wristbands that say “You are not alone.” After the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2018, Spicker said she questioned how she could make positive change in the world. She created her wristbands to give to others as a reminder that someone is looking out for them.
“My hope one day is that if someone is struggling and could use a bracelet or a reminder that they’re not alone and you were to reach out to me, I could send it to them and no one would have to pay for anything,” Spicker said.
Spicker works at the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement and is an Elon 101 teaching assistant. She also plays club soccer and is currently doing undergraduate research on sustainable medicinal ingredients.
Sydney Simmons, a sociology major from Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, said she is excited to finally run for Homecoming Court after years of watching her senior friends do the same. She said she is excited to be representing a cause she cares about on a public platform.
“In my way, this is almost like a form of activism,” Simmons said. “I think it’s really good to have representation. It was a hope, but now it’s a reality.”
Simmons is running on behalf of the Surdna Foundation, which promotes social justice reform, inclusive communities and healthy environments.
“It all starts in the community and then that’s how you’re able to enact laws or programs,” Simmons said. “This foundation kind of does it all, but it’s centered around several different passions of mine and areas that I found joy and peace in.”
Simmons is an Odyssey Scholar and a resident area coordinator in the Office of Residence Life. She also works as a high school tutor with the It Takes a Village Project and is a summer mentor and counselor with Elon Academy.
Senior Abby Walsh, a strategic communications and media analytics double major from Quincy, Massachusetts, said running for Homecoming Court seemed like the ultimate way to show her school spirit.
“I’m a senior, and I’m in that head space where I’m like, this is my last chance to do everything that I want to do,” Walsh said. “I was really excited because Noor is like my best friend so we were really excited we both got it.”
Walsh is running in support of Best Buddies International, a nonprofit which works to create opportunities for people with physical or intellectual disabilities.
She has been raising funds for the Best Buddies Challenge, a 5K run and bike ride held in Cape Cod, Massachusetts for the past three years.