Once a semester, the chime of glass and a few spoken words ring in the sacred age for college students. But at one of the university’s treasured rites of passage, those glasses aren’t full of alcohol.
“Ironically, we toast sparkling grape juice because at that moment, it isn’t about alcohol at all. It’s about so much more,” said Janet Fuller, university chaplain of Elon University.
Turning 21: Coming of Age at Elon celebrates the gateway to adulthood for students and their mentors. Sponsored by the Truitt Center for Religious and Spirital Life, the event is a chance for reflection during a time of growth.
“Former Chaplain Richard McBride started it because college students are prone to thinking 21 is the drinking age, but there’s more to it than that,” she said. “It’s time to become an independent adult and get ready to move away from home.”
This period of change is not wasted on students.
“Now that I am 21, I feel like I have a greater responsibility to be a global leader,” said junior Whitley Dozier. “I am currently in a stage of growth in all aspects of my life. This stage that I am growing into is challenging, but I am learning so much more about myself than ever.”
A key part of the celebration is the presence of mentors. Each student is encouraged to bring a faculty member, adviser or supervisor that has influenced his or her growth.
This opportunity recognizes the concept of mentorship and honors Elon faculty and staff as well
as students, according to Phil Smith, associate chaplain and director of religious life.
Dozier invited her residence life area director, who she said has grown with her both professionally and personally.
“My guest shared some really nice remarks that really made me thankful for our friendship,” she said. “Sometimes, we can get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to recognize people that have had an impact on us, and I think this ceremony really brings students and faculty together to share these memories and celebrate our coming of age.”
Fuller said recognizing accomplishments helps students prepare for the changes they will experience.
“The world is going to see you differently after you turn 21, and we want to give you the chance to see yourself differently , too,” Fuller said.
Junior Deanna Fox said she expects to feel these changes within herself.
“It’s something like crossing over into adulthood, forgetting our childish ways and moving on to a new chapter in my life,” Fox said.
This transition is exactly what the chaplain has in mind for the event.
“At the ceremony, we like to say ‘Welcome to the third decade of life,’ because it’s the decade of your life of great productivity,” Fuller said. “You decide what kind of family you’ll have, have children and get your first job. That’s not just about a drink in a bar, that’s about who you’re going to be for the rest of your life.”