Could you describe your experience with service at Ursinus and how it impacted you?
As a Bonner Leader at Ursinus, I was given the privilege of spending a prominent amount of my college experience in the community of Norristown. I spent the majority of my time off-campus with middle-schoolers participating in the Creative After-School Alternatives (CASA) Program at the ACPPA Art Center, a safe space for creative expression and play. The time I spent at CASA has impacted me in tremendous and innumerable ways. The CASA kids were nearly all students of color or part of marginalized communities, who were experiencing the effects of their identities in different ways. Being a part of the program gave me the ability to learn from these young people as they began to use creative outlets for expression. I was learning about the intersections of race, socioeconomic status, education, and poverty in the classroom, but being at CASA really showed me how these issues affect real people in deeply pervasive ways. On the other hand, I also saw how the CASA program empowered these students as well. It was creating a community to support and champion these kids despite all of the factors working against them. So though programs like CASA and service are not the entire solution to systemic issues including racism and poverty, they impact communities in very real ways. So to speak, service is just one piece in a very large, complicated puzzle of social justice and systemic change. I’m still learning every day, but my service work at Ursinus was instrumental in pushing me to ask deeper questions about our society and to continue to incorporate community engagement into any work that I do.
What have you been up to since graduation and how is service a part of it?
Bonner was a huge part of my Ursinus experience, and I have been lucky to continue my work with Bonner by serving as Program Associate for the Bonner Foundation in Princeton, NJ. In this role, I support Bonner programs in a national capacity, working with our Bonner network of approximately 60 programs across the U.S. I create and connect resources across our network, facilitate a student advisory board that provides feedback on national initiatives and a learning community cohort focused on boosting campus-wide engagement, and plan and manage four national, annual Bonner conferences. Though my work at the Foundation may not typically be understood as service, it supports the direct service work being accomplished at all of our Bonner campuses and continually pushes the field of community engagement forward. Service informs my work and continues to be a part of my life beyond work as well. More than anything, service has become a lifestyle.