Wayne Meisel, president of the Bonner Foundation, on Thursday told Tusculum College students in the service leader program that bears the foundation’s name that their group is among the best in the country.
“I would put the people in this room up against any group from any college around the country and know you would get things done because of what you have already accomplished,” Meisel told members of Tusculum’s Bonner Leaders program as he met with them during a reception Thursday afternoon. Meisel visited Tusculum College as part of a trip to visit colleges and universities with Bonner programs in this region.
The Bonner Foundation, one of the nation’s largest privately funded service scholarship programs, works with about 70 universities and colleges to create a culture of service on college campuses. Housed in the Center for Civic Advancement at Tusculum, the Bonner Leader program, currently composed of 15 students, provides leadership training, a tuition grant and a channel for students to serve in their community.
Meisel asked the students about the effect the Bonner Leader program has had in their lives and received a variety of answers. Alejandra Chavez said her Bonner Leader service placement was in a local school, and she has been chosen for a position at the school because school administrators got to know her through her service.
Anup Kaphle, a native of Nepal, said when he came to America, he thought of America as a great country where people did not have to face the same challenges as in his homeland. But, he said, when he traveled to Caretta, W. Va., for a service trip, he saw people living in the same conditions as found in Nepal.
Megan Ownby said her service experiences have helped strengthen her desire to reach her educational goals and return to her home community to serve and help better conditions there.
The students also commented that their Bonner Leader experiences have helped them be more open to others needs and perspectives.
Meisel then asked the students about how the program could be strengthened and more students become involved. He encouraged and challenged them to continue in their service and to help expand the program by involving more students.
The students also told Meisel about the service projects that are part of their Bonner Leader responsibilities. Students are working as tutors through a program of the George Clem Multicultural Association, helping in the local Truancy Office, tutoring and working with children at the Backyard Learning Center after-school program for Tusculum View Elementary School students from low income families, assisting senior citizens at Plaza Towers learn to use e-mail to stay in touch with family and friends, and helping spread information on campus about service opportunities and the Bonner Leader program.
As part of the program, Bonner Leaders are required to fulfill 100 hours of volunteer time per semester, participate in group service projects, assume leadership roles, and serve in individual service placements. They may address such issues as improving educational opportunities, fighting hunger, illiteracy, drug and alcohol abuse or environmental concerns. Student members participate in regular training and reflection activities sponsored by the campus, their community partners and the Bonner Foundation. A $1,000 tuition grant per semester is available for students accepted into the Bonner Leader program.
Prior to meeting with the students, Meisel met with college officials about the program including Dr. Kim Estep, provost and vice president of academic affairs; Melinda Dukes, assistant vice president of academic affairs, and Robin Fife, Bonner Leaders program director.