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Bonner program students learn and serve through partnerships

Ten students with different backgrounds and different interests all have the same goal. These Bonner Leadership Scholars at WKU work alongside community partners to address specific needs to improve the quality of life in the community while also developing critical thinking and capacity-building skills that will develop them personally and professionally.

This year's Bonner Leadership Scholars at WKU are: (front row from left) Raymond Smith, Katherine Hall, Coutney Ritchie, Lejla Mehmedovic, Grace Gilliland; (back row from left) Kurtis Spears, Joanna Williams, Daniel Banks, Erin Evans, Jillian Weston.

This year’s Bonner Leadership Scholars at WKU are: (front row from left) Raymond Smith, Katherine Hall, Coutney Ritchie, Lejla Mehmedovic, Grace Gilliland; (back row from left) Kurtis Spears, Joanna Williams, Daniel Banks, Erin Evans, Jillian Weston.

The Bonner program was a perfect fit for Erin Evans who graduated from Presentation Academy in Louisville, where volunteer service was part of the curriculum. “My high school required service hours every year, and my sophomore year I did a mission trip. I saw that I got more out of working with one group consistently,” Evans said.

In the Bonner program, students serve 10 hours a week with about eight hours a week devoted to service with one partner that they serve with the entire year. Evans wanted to work with youth and the immigrant population and originally expressed interest in serving with Bowling Green Independent Schools (BGIS) because of their Leader in Me program. However, the BGIS needed assistance with its Family Literacy Program, which provides a variety of support services to the refugee community, including GED and ESL assistance.

In high school, Evans tutored youth in the Hispanic community after school. Her experience in the mentoring program and ability to speak Spanish made her an ideal match to assist with the BGIS Family Literacy Program.

Vicki Wristel, Associate Superintendent for Learning Programs, said: “Erin is a tremendous asset to our Family Literacy Program. She coordinates the Early Childhood Component designing learning activities for the children to help them learn English language literacy skills while their parents are attending ESL and GED classes. Erin is a true leader who is making a difference in the lives of our international community members.”

The Bonner Leadership Scholar program at WKU is a Bonner Leader program of the National Bonner Foundation. Most Bonner students serve in leadership positions similar to Evans within partnering organizations. The 10 Bonner students serve as program assistants, coordinators, specialists, or in positions with similar titles that allow them to lead and provide more support than the average volunteer or intern. In addition, Bonner students serve with their primary partner over multiple semesters.

The WKU Bonner students are: Courtney Ritchie of Viper; Raymond Smith of Bowling Green; Lejla Mehmedovic of Bowling Green; Katherine Hall of Elizabethtown; Grace Gilliland of Dickson, Tenn.; Kurtis Spears of Burkesville; Daniel Banks of Frankfort; Erin Evans of Louisville; Jillian Weston of Bowling Green; and Joanna Williams of Clarksville, Tenn.

Currently, the students serve with partners in the Warren and Allen county communities. In addition to Bowling Green Independent Schools, organizations include: Center for Courageous Kids, International Center, Down Syndrome Support of South Central Kentucky (Buddy House), Community Education, Hope Harbor, Light of Chance, and The Food Abides WKU Food Pantry, C.E.D.A.R.S., and the WKU ALIVE Center/The $100 Solutionprogram.

The Bonner Leadership Scholar program at WKU is made possible through a partnership with WKU Enrollment Management, WKU Financial Assistance, and the WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships. For information, visit www.wku.edu/alive.

Contact: Aurelia Spaulding, (270) 782-0082.

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