Bonner Leaders Strengthen Community Ties

1.pngKatherine Graves, Assistant Editor

The Bonner Leader Program helps Lynchburg College students to become involved with the Lynchburg community by doing service with local non-profit organizations and by introducing the first year students to the city.

This year, first-year students will join the Bonner Leaders at their service sites sometime during the semester to learn about civic engagement, Associate Chaplain and Bonner Leader Program Director Anne Gibbons stated.

The Bonner Leaders held their orientation at the Lynchburg Community Market last Saturday to get the students familiar with the city and the community of Lynchburg.

Jennifer Kennedy, manager of the Community Market, spoke to the students about the importance of buying local and the issue of food insecurity in neighborhoods.

The Bonner Leaders hold their orientation at the Community Market every year, Gibbons said. The Bonner interns created a scavenger hunt for the students to explore downtown this year, Bonner senior intern Brittany O’Connell said.

Following their orientation at the market, the students went to Old City Cemetery where all the students went on a walking meditation to think about how service is changing them, and their community, and the first year students wrote themselves letters to open when they graduate.

The Bonner Leader Program is a “leadership and development program where students gain skills by serving their community,” Bonner senior intern Kayla Fuqua said.

The program is a service scholarship program where students complete service hours with non-profit organizations in Lynchburg, Gibbons said. Local organizations that students will work with this year include Lynchburg Grows, Habitat for Humanity, Lynchburg Humane Society, Brook Hill Farm and Daily Bread. Bonner Leaders work with organizations that match their interests and skill sets.

Students spend an average of eight to ten hours a week working with an organization, with six to eight of those hours being paid. Altogether the students work 300 hours, minimum, each school year and about 250 of those hours are paid, Gibbons said.

“The founders of the Bonner Foundation, Corella and Bertram Bonner wanted everyone to be able to afford an education and be able to serve their community which is why they established this program,” Gibbons said. “The motto is: Access to Education and Opportunity to Serve.”

The group also goes on field trips to work with other non-profit organizations, Gibbons said.

This past Monday, the group spent the day in Harrisonburg at Vine and Fig, a sustainable living project that helps refugees, creates initiatives and provides options for alternate living. The Bonner Leader Program accepts ten to 15 students each year.

Students join for two years, either their sophomore and junior years or their junior and senior years, Bonner Graduate Assistant Sammie Chapman said. Rising seniors who have completed two years in the program become interns, who run and plan the program.

Students interested in joining can apply second semester. There will be information sessions and a service day for students who are interested.

Those running the program are looking to potentially expand it to a four-year program. If this occurs, incoming first-years could join the program to help it expand and carry its service to the community even further.

Students interested in joining the Bonner Leader Program can contact Anne Gibbons at gibbons@lynchburg.edu or (434) 544-8158.