In what has become an annual tradition, Elmhurst University President Troy D. VanAken hit the road on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to personally congratulate select high school seniors who have just been admitted to Elmhurst.
In previous years, VanAken visited local high schools to share the good news and present each newly admitted student with a Bluejay Box welcome gift. But this year, with most schools holding classes remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he took the celebration straight to students’ homes.
Students opening their front doors were greeted—from a safe distance—by President VanAken, Elmhurst U. mascot Victor E. Bluejay and a merry band of admission counselors who cheered, clapped and waved signs with messages like “Welcome Bluejay!” and “You Did It!”
“I just loved all the enthusiasm and excitement as I was opening my box,” said Olivia DeLuca, of Arlington Heights. “It definitely made me feel special, and showed that Elmhurst wanted me as a student—that they saw me not as just a number, but as a person.”
Vice President for Admission Timothy Ricordati and his own group of well-wishers also surprised students at home during a trip to Carol Stream and Melrose Park, where the Bluejay Boxes were delivered via drone.
Endy Didovic, of Melrose Park, had no idea what was about to happen. His father, Sam Didovic, had to make up a story about friends coming over to visit, to make sure Endy would look presentable when he answered the door. The ruse worked because Endy was “shocked and really, really happy” when the drone brought him his Bluejay Box, his father said.
“And of course as parents, we were really happy too, because he’s been working so hard in high school and really wants to go to Elmhurst—he loves everything about it,” he said.
The pandemic, rather than prevent admission counselors from carrying out their annual ritual this year, motivated them to make it even more special.
“A tradition like this is even more important now when people are craving safe, human interaction,” said Christine Grenier, senior director for first-year and international admission. “It underscores how much we care about our students and each other, and what kind of community we are. Being able to celebrate the admission of these students to Elmhurst University is a gift for everybody.”
In that vein, the Office of Admission will host two more events this month for newly admitted Elmhurst students, prospective students and their families:
- On Dec. 9, Elmhurst University will host a Parent Toast virtual reception with President VanAken, Ricordati and Illinois Association of College Admission Counseling President Tony Minestra, an Elmhurst University alumnus.
- On Dec. 22, the University will be the site of a Winter Wonderland Caravan, an opportunity for families to take a driving tour of the campus, with stops along the way.
“Events like these can give prospective students a sense of who we are, our DNA, and whether Elmhurst University is right for them, especially during these unprecedented times,” Ricordati said.