Updated as of Nov. 8 at 12:20 a.m. to include additional photos. 

Elon University will take part in a celebration of its first-generation Phoenix with four events Nov. 7 to 11.  

Freshman Timothy Carter is just one of the first-generation students at Elon. He credits his stepmom as the reason for why he is in college, as she enrolled Carter in a private preparatory high school and college preparatory classes. 

“If I didn't have my stepmom kind of helping me through all of this, I don't know if that would be here now,” Carter said. 

Carter said Elon stuck out in the application process for more than just the campus aesthetic. He said the university prioritized support for first-generation students early on. 

Though Carter said the campus is big, the community is close. 

“I'm trying to do something to better my family's legacy and something better for me too,” Carter said. “I’ve always loved education and exploring and things like that, so Elon gave me this place where I felt comfortable in a community of learners and thinkers in places where I can try new classes and explore, look at my options and prepare myself for the real world.

Though Carter said he doesn’t usually talk about being a first-generation student, it is something he uses as personal motivation. 

“I'm here to change my life to do something better,” Carter said. “It's just more of a drive rather than a matter of a support system for me.”

Ruth Cruz | Elon News Network
Travella Free, executive director of Elon University’s Center for Access and Success at the First-Gen Forum Nov. 7, asked students to write about their experiences on sticky notes placed in front of them.

Elon freshman Janeeta Smith is also a first-generation college student and Odyssey scholar. She said the support she’s received as part of the Odyssey Fellows Program — a selective, merit-based program for Elon students who demonstrate financial need — has contributed to a smooth transition into college. 

“With Odyssey, you already have that community, you already have those people if you have any concerns or you need to talk to someone,” Smith said. “They’re here for you. If I didn’t have [that], I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable eating at the dining halls or going to school events and stuff like that. 

Smith said the Odyssey Program also eased the financial burdens that come with college tuition. 

“I just didn't like being broke, because it comes with so many struggles and stuff like that,” Smith said. “And I do want to have a family in the future. I really don't want them to have those same struggles that I have in terms of financial struggles.” 

Smith said she appreciates the events in the First-Generation College Celebration. 

“It's really nice to have that support, saying, ‘Hey, we appreciate you, and we know that y'all go through a lot of stuff,’” Smith said. 

Chloe Franklin | Elon News Network

Freshman Melanie Rodgers is a first-generation student at Elon. Rodgers said she is glad to see the university is creating a space for the community to engage. 

Freshman Melanie Rodgers said she heard about Elon’s First-Generation College Celebration through an email. When she found out some of her friends would be at the events, she said she wanted to attend as well. 

Rodgers said events like these create a community and a place to form connections. 

“I feel like as first-generation students, no one really asked us our perspective on being first generation,” Rodgers said. “When you see people here, they just assume your whole family graduated because that's the culture here. So it was just nice for them to reach out and be like, first-generation college activities — this is what we're going to do.” 

Schedule of Events: 

Nov. 7: First-Gen Forum

5:00 to 6:00 p.m., LaRose 200

Nov. 8: College Coffee

9:40 to 10:20 a.m., Phi Beta Kappa Commons

Nov. 9: Community Celebration

5 to 6:30 p.m., Mooney/LaRose Lawn

Nov. 11: S'mores Outdoors

7:30 p.m., Koury Patio