Concord's Bonner Scholar Students Link Princeton, W.Va. and Princeton, N.J.
Athens, W.Va. - Eleven students from southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia joined forces during their spring break to perform community service work in Princeton, N.J. This service trip, coordinated through the Concord College Bonner Scholars office, was planned as part of a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) that has been ongoing for the past two years.
Under the guidelines of this project, Concord College staff have been working with staff at BSC and SVCC to assist them with developing community service programs similar to the Bonner Scholars model that is in place at the 24 Bonner Foundation supported schools, including Concord College. The Bonner Scholars Program requires students to perform community service work and participate in student leadership and development activities in return for scholarship money.
Wayne Meisel, President of the Bonner Foundation, proposed this service trip to expose students from our area to problems in urban New Jersey, where the Bonner Foundation offices are located. Moreover, he wanted to begin exploring ways to make connections between Princeton, N.J., and Princeton, W.Va. — connections that might bring future opportunities for our students and other citizens of this area.
Staff members Donna Miller from Southwest Virginia Community College and Kathy Ball from Concord College traveled with and supervised the students on their six-day service project. Ms. Miller stated, "I want to help students understand the concept of service learning in a different culture or setting."
While in New Jersey, students worked in the greenhouses and gardens of an organic farm that supplies food to the needy, served meals to the homeless and working poor at a local soup kitchen, prepared food bags and personal bags for distribution to the needy and assisted high school students as they whitewashed graffiti off walls in their school. According to Ms. Ball, the students "were able to experience first-hand the types of problems that exist in more urban areas—problems that are both similar and different when compared to those in their home communities."
The students were also given the opportunity to meet the mayors of Princeton, N.J., the Human Services Commission, and students from Princeton University and two local high schools. Lucy Hillman from SVCC commented that "the people from Princeton, New Jersey, are a lot like the people around here."
Students who participated in the trip included:
Castlewood, Jennifer Broadwater, CC
Honaker, Carrie J. Elswick, SVCC
Honaker, Lucy Hillman, SVCC
Pounding Mill, Jessica Smith, SVCC
Swords Creek, Sarah Jackson, SVCC
Athens, Piotr Switalski, CC
Bluefield, Amy Faulkner, BSC
Bluefield, Derek Johnson, BSC
Bluefield, Chris Watson, BSC
Princeton, Leslie Hopkins, BSC
Princeton, Casie Hurt, CC
"I love the opportunity to help, whether it is at home, or in another state," voiced Leslie Hopkins from Bluefield State College. "The feeling of accomplishment is all the satisfaction that I need. Thanks to everyone for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this effort!"
"I especially enjoyed the soup kitchen," stated Casie Hurt from Concord College. "I feel that we forged important bonds with the people in Princeton, N.J. Also, I am thankful for the Bonner program. This trip brought some realizations to me about needs in urban areas of our country."
Jessica Smith from SVCC summed up the success of the trip by saying, "In each of the projects that we completed, I learned a lesson. I felt a great sense of achievement in being able to take the time to help others. I would definitely say this has been a spring break that I will never forget."
The Concord College Bonner Scholars Program is currently accepting applications from high school seniors who plan to enter college in the fall of 2000. The deadline for applications is Friday, April 14, 2000, at 4:00 p.m.
Interested students should contact the Bonner Scholars office at 1–304-384-6009 for more information.
Concord College Notes: Public service is a very important part of Concord College's mission to the local community. The Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation based in Princeton, N.J., has recognized this commitment to service and endowed the college with funds to establish the Bonner Scholarship Program. This scholarship program provides 80 Concord students with financial support for their education. Each student must then provide support to the community through volunteer services. Bonner Scholars are typically first generation college students with a record of academic success and a demonstrated concern for their home community. Students remain in the Bonner Scholarship Program for four years. During this time they provide an average of 10 hours of community support per week during the regular school year and 240 hours of service during the summer.