Ox­ford’s Bon­ner Lead­ers

Ox­ford ser­vice pro­gram helps stu­dents and the com­mu­nity “I

The Covington News - - OPINION -

By Jenny Thompson

Eun Lee, a sopho­more at Ox­ford Col­lege of Emory Univer­sity, re­ceived many let­ters from the col­lege af­ter her ac­cep­tance, but none that in­trigued her as much as a brochure for the Bon­ner Lead­ers Pro­gram.

The com­mu­nity ser­vice schol­ar­ship pro­gram ap­pealed to Lee who de­voted much of her free time in her na­tive New York to tu­tor­ing stu­dents and also needed some fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Through her in­volve­ment with Bon­ner Lead­ers at Ox­ford, Lee is earn­ing money for school as well as learn­ing about so­cial ob­sta­cles in the area and even more about her­self.

“I didn’t ex­pect to run into so much time man­age­ment trou­bles — that’s where I re­ally strug­gled last year,” Lee said. “But, this year I’ve man­aged to work it out.”

The pro­gram ac­cepts 10 fresh­men an­nu­ally and pairs them with com­mu­nity non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions for the rig­or­ous 900-hour ser­vice load re­quired to re­ceive the max­i­mum $9,362.50 schol­ar­ship.

Stu­dents in the pro­gram com­mit to work­ing for a non­profit eight hours a week for four semesters — their first semesters on a col­lege cam­pus — and a sum­mer serv­ing 400 hours.

Ox­ford Co­or­di­na­tor of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Emily Pen­prase ex­plained how the 10 stu­dents are se­lected for the pro­gram each year based on a writ­ten ap­pli­ca­tion and an on-cam­pus or phone in­ter­view.

Pen­prase said ap­prox­i­mately 70 stu­dents ap­plied this year.

She thinks the pro­gram, in its sec­ond year, com­ple­ments the ser­vice and lead­er­ship projects un­der the um­brella of Ox­ford’s Pierce In­sti­tute for Lead­er­ship and Com­mu­nity En­gage­ment.

“I like the pro­gram be­cause it is an in­ti­mate group of stu­dents and or­ga­ni­za­tions in­ter­ested in com­mu­nity ser­vice,” Pen­prase said. “ Stu­dents in­volved feel like they are part of some­thing big­ger.

“I’ve had a stu­dent tell me they liked the pro­gram be­cause it’s small and not some­thing they could get lost in — they know all the peo­ple in­volved.”

Crys­tal McLaugh­lin, Ox­ford’s di­rec­tor of stu­dent de­vel­op­ment, said al­though the pro­gram is new at Ox­ford, it has ex­isted since it’s in­cep­tion in 1990 at Berea Col­lege.

Wealthy real es­tate de­vel­oper Ber­tram Bon­ner and his wife Corella set up the fund­ing for the pro­gram for stu­dents who wanted to be civi­cally en­gaged but needed fi­nan­cial aid for col­lege. The Bon­ners have since passed away.

To­day more than 50 in­sti­tu­tions across the na­tion host the pro­gram. McLaugh­lin agreed with Pen­prase that Bon­ner Lead­ers fits in per­fectly with Ox­ford’s mis­sion to cre­ate aca­dem­i­cally suc­cess­ful and civi­cally re­spon­si­ble un­der­grad­u­ates.

“The depth of the ser­vice com­mit­ment is what we wanted to add to our ser­vice pro­grams,” McLaugh­lin said. “The pro­gram al­lows stu­dents to go more in depth with their ser­vice, to learn more about so­cial is­sues and fur­ther de­vel-

like the pro­gram be­cause it is an in­ti­mate group of stu­dents and or­ga­ni­za­tions in­ter­ested in com­mu­nity ser­vice. Stu­dents in­volved feel like they are part of some­thing big­ger.

Co­or­di­na­tor of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice at Ox­ford Col­lege

op their lead­er­ship skills.”

Ox­ford’s Bon­ner Leader com­mu­nity part­ners are Head­Start, the New­ton County ju­ve­nile court sys­tem, Wash­ing­ton Street Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, Cousins Mid­dle School, Project Re­NeWal, Project Ad­ven­ture, New­ton READS, The Cen­ter for Com­mu­nity Preser­va­tion and Plan­ning, Keep Cov­ing­ton/New­ton Beau­ti­ful and The Learn­ing Cen­ter.

Lee works with the Wash­ing­ton Street Com­mu­nity Cen­ter where she per­forms a variety of dif­fer­ent tasks.

Wash­ing­ton Street Di­rec­tor Bea Jack­son said the cen­ter has had a long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with the col­lege.

“We were in fact se­lected as one of those agen­cies that would pilot and be one of the first re­cip­i­ents of a Bon­ner Leader,” Jack­son said.

Jack­son said Lee and other lead­ers tu­tor and co­or­di­nate the af­ter-school en­rich­ment pro­gram as well as han­dle ad­min­is­tra­tive and cler­i­cal du­ties.

“We also put to use their creative tal­ents and skills with the de­sign of our dis­play boards and fly­ers about up­com­ing events and ac­tiv­i­ties,” Jack­son said.

Lee tracks stu­dents’ progress in the en­rich­ment pro­gram by help­ing Jack­son main­tain the in­di­vid­ual per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem. This sys­tem al­lows them to as­cer­tain which stu­dents are pre­pared for the Cri­te­rion-Ref­er­enced Com­pe­tency Tests they must

Emily Pen­prase

take in the spring and which are not.

Jack­son said Bon­ner Lead­ers re­ally try to know the stu­dents they work with at the cen­ter.

“They are won­der­ful role mod­els for our stu­dents,” Jack­son said.

Through her ex­pe­ri­ences at Wash­ing­ton Street, Lee has learned about eco­nomic and ed­u­ca­tional prob­lems the area faces.

“My fam­ily strug­gled at one point in my life, so I was in their shoes,” Lee said, “but luck­ily my par­ents were in my life and made me work to­ward aca­demic suc­cess.”

She said she wanted to do the same for the stu­dents at the cen­ter and has learned about how to com­mu­ni­cate emo­tion­ally as well as ver­bally from her en­coun­ters with the chil­dren it serves.

Ac­cord­ing to Lee, stu­dents open up and learn bet­ter from men­tors who con­sis­tently ap­pear in their lives.

Her work at the cen­ter also has shown her how a com­mu­nity can ef­fec­tively deal with hur­dles such as poverty and aca­demic un­der­per­for­mance.

“They are like ex­tra fam­ily out­side their fam­ily there, and for me that’s hope­ful and won­der­ful to see that,” Lee said. “The ex­pe­ri­ence has def­i­nitely made me more op­ti­mistic in that we can work on th­ese in­ter­na­tional prob­lems lo­cally, be­cause ev­ery­one de­serves an ed­u­ca­tion.”

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