Evy Brunelle ~ News Editor
The Bonner Leader Program at the University of Lynchburg is a work-study program with a mission to help the local community through service.
According to Tasha Gillum, who is the Bonner Leader program coordinator, “Bonner Leaders are committed to community service, leadership, and social justice, and work with our partners to address community needs like food and housing insecurity, poverty, college access, environmental sustainability, and more.”
The Bonner Leader Program helps students by “provid[ing] an ‘opportunity to serve’ by leveraging work-study funding to enable students to earn money for college through their community work with local non-profits,” said Gillum. “The ‘access to education’ portion of the Bonner Program’s motto references the Bonner Foundation’s requirement that schools with Bonner Leaders have at least 75% of the participating students qualify for Federal Work-Study. Schools have the option to award students with ‘College Work-Study’ or some other private source for the student stipends.”
Bonner leaders also graduate with the capability of performing complex projects, incredible teamwork skills and an understanding of social and community issues. Once a student gets accepted into the program, it is cohort based, which means there will be 15 students per class, and you must complete 300 hours of service per school year for the four years you attend University.
It is also, “built along a four-year developmental model that scaffolds a set of expectations and experiences, in the context of community service and engagement with the students’ academic and co-curricular learning,” said Gillum. Over their four years of service, they create a capstone project for the community they were tasked to be partners with.
Allison Tabor, a senior nursing major, has been in the Bonner Leader Program for three years said, “The Bonner Leader Program has allowed me to explore various topics with other students who have diverse backgrounds and opinions while being respectful and open to each other. The program has also allowed me to make meaningful connections in the community and find new interests that I hope to continue to pursue after graduation.”
Schuyler Rowe, who is also a senior, has been with the program since her sophomore year. She is currently in her second year as an intern, with a communications internship last year and an Alumni Relations internship this year. With her internships, she writes monthly newsletters to keep the Alumni involved and helps the seniors with their capstone projects.
Rowe said, “I see the Bonner Program as allowing students to find their passions and run with it. From working with our local special needs community to tutoring kids as local high schools, there’s a niche for each of our students to fit into. I enjoy how open the Bonner Program is to working with students to find their passions in community service that could last a lifetime. The other aspect of Bonner that I enjoy would be the community we make for ourselves. Over the past two years, I have seen our students grow close with one another and create meaningful connections that will last through their college careers. This aspect is what makes our group feel more like a welcoming community of people who genuinely care about one another and are open to inviting others in.”
Lexxi Segovia is in her senior year and loves not only Bonner itself, but the community that comes with the program. “It is a space where I find the most comfort. The students and individuals involved with Bonner have grown to be much closer to me that I ever expected them to. They are my friends I lean on, the people whose values I have the utmost respect for, and the experiences they have taught me are invaluable lessons I will cherish.”
Her leadership role is at the service site Camp Kum-Ba-Yah at the Cosby Woods. Some of the things she has accomplished while working there is, “bolstering their social media presence and creating campaigns to raise awareness.” Segovia is committed to raising awareness about the camp because of how it, “allows all children to explore the natural world and experience personal discovery.”
Andrew McCracken, who is a senior, loves the Bonner program because it gives him, “the ability to work on something real and tangible that has the potential to make a difference in Lynchburg. My service site is called Camp Kum-Ba-Yah, a non-profit outdoor camp for kids and families in the Lynchburg area, and I love getting to do anything from facilitating programs for the kids to doing simple but therapeutic grounds work walking around the woods. I also enjoy the supportiveness of the community of Bonners.”
Alejandro Bonilla is a junior and has been in the program since her freshman year. She has been an accountability intern since her sophomore year. She is in charge of attendance, a resource for the other Bonner leaders, and makes sure people stick to important deadlines. What Bonilla loves about the program is, “being able to be an active member of the greater Lynchburg community and being able to spend time with the Bonners I serve with. There is a strong sense of community in our program and we are always pushing each other to be the best we can be. I couldn’t ask for better people to work with.”
Candice Ferguson is a sophomore transfer student and has been in the program since the beginning of the semester. She became interested in the program after seeing it advertised in an email and knew that she wanted to help make a difference in her community. What Ferguson likes about the program so far is, “that we are all such supportive and friendly people, and that we are all there for each other. I can always count on my Bonner family to back me up.”
To express an interest in joining, you can find the form at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfcN3-WMbh4husGt4EbTCEe4zPTOQfewp4SbNq4fih0oZiIkw/viewform?gxids=7628
Applications will be available in Oct., which you can find on their website below and clicking the application link: https://www.lynchburg.edu/student-life/center-for-community-engagement/bonner-leader-program/#:~:text=Bonner%20Leaders%20are%20students%20who,in%20issues%20of%20social%20justice.