Aug 29, 2009

Giving Back to the Community

Students passionate about community service may want to consider the nearly 90 colleges and universities participating in one of several scholarship programs supported by the Bonner Foundation. Created to foster commitment to volunteerism and community spirit, the foundation provides select campuses with scholarships and programmatic support designed to enhance student engagement in sustained community service work during four years of undergraduate education. Bonner currently offers the country’s largest privately-funded service-based college scholarship program with the goal of rivaling academics and athletics as a third major source of merit scholarship money.

Colleges and universities are chosen to participate in one of the Bonner programs based on their support for low-income students, community involvement, and their desire to work with other institutions sharing a common commitment to promote a culture of service on their campuses. Individual Bonner scholarships are awarded through a process integrated with college admissions and may be used as recruitment tools by participating schools. To receive Bonner scholarships, students must attend one of the approved colleges.

Since 2007, Widener University has participated in the Bonner Leaders Program through its Presidential Service Corps. The PSC is a group of motivated students who have exhibited leadership skills, success in intellectual and academic pursuits, and a “passion for making positive contributions to society” through volunteerism. On a recent visit to the campus, I was impressed by the level of commitment and variety of service projects managed by PSC students. They are working with Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the United Way, Salvation Army, and the March of Dimes. They support food and clothing drives, opened a college access center, staff educational and arts programs, as well as volunteer in nursing homes and child development centers. Most recently, 12 PSC students completed an international service trip to Jamaica where they built two houses and helped a needy school and orphanage.

In Virginia, six schools have earned the Bonner distinction: Bluefield College, Emory and Henry College, Ferrum College, Lynchburg College, the University of Richmond, and Washington and Lee University. These or any other Bonner colleges and universities are worth considering for students with special interest in or dedication to community service—with or without the financial support.

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