Emory Report
September 29, 2008
Volume 61, Number 6



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29, 2008
Oxford’s Bonner Leaders focus on value of volunteer service

By beverly clark

Service has always been a part of Irene Mizuki’s life, but becoming a Bonner Leader has taken that commitment to the next level. The Oxford freshman is part of the newest class for the service scholarship program at Oxford College that aims to connect students with long-term, dedicated community volunteer opportunities and leadership development.

“Becoming a Bonner has made my passion for service that much stronger. People tend to forget everything that is going around them … This has helped me really focus on things that are truly important and makes me take time to evaluate everything that’s going on in the world and what I can do to help,” says Mizuki, who is working as a tutor and mentor at the Washington Street Community Center in Newton County. “I know that the kids that I’m working with don’t have what I had and I hope that I can show them what they have the ability to do.”

The Bonner Leaders program is a two-year commitment designed to heighten the overall education of students through ongoing service work and leadership training to develop the tools and knowledge necessary to make their work meaningful and lasting.

“It gives students the opportunity to go beyond their comfort level and deepen their experiences,” said Emily Penprase, coordinator of community service at Oxford. “They move from being simply volunteers, to taking on graduated levels of responsibility and expectations and essentially becoming staff members to the organizations they serve.”

The Bonner Leaders program uses funds from federal work-study, AmeriCorps, and Oxford’s Pierce Institute for Leadership and Community Engagement to create scholarship stipends for students who complete community service each week during their term of service. Students commit to 900 hours of service, and in return receive about $9,000 over two years in scholarships and stipends.

Currently there are 22 Bonner Leaders at Oxford, and the first cohort from the three-year-old program is now at Emory, where many are continuing to stay committed to service and leadership in their community, Penprase says.

“This program has allowed me to open my eyes, and move out of a place of complacency and comfort, to actually see the needs around me,” says freshman Jessica Screen, who is working in Indian Creek Middle School in Covington. “I find that many times we are bound by the four walls of a classroom and sometimes forget how to apply our knowledge to the outside world…With the economy upside-down and more and more people facing hard times, I’m hoping that I will be able to get out in the community and really be an agent of change.”