Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Student Experience
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 10,
Number 1
(2006)

Download our print issue (PDF)
Campus-Community Involvement
Student Leadership: Making a Difference in the World
Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve
Berea College: Learning, Labor, and Service
A Developmental and Capacity-Building Model for Community Partnerships
The Power of a Sustained Relationship between Community Partners and Colleges and Universities
Faculty Involvement
Prequel to Civic Engagement: An African American Studies Research Seminar
Service Learning and Policy Change
Facilitating Student Growth as Citizens: A Developmental Model for Community-Engaged Learning
Student Experience
An Intentional and Comprehensive Student Development Model
Bonner: More Than a Model, a Lived Experience
Relationships First
Commitment to a Cause
Institutional Leadership
Preparing to Serve
Checklist from the President’s Chair
Curricular Transformation
LifeWorks and the Commons: A Model for General Education
The Case for Studying Poverty
Research
Engaging with Difference Matters: Longitudinal Outcomes of the Cocurricular Bonner Scholars Program
Resources
Resources for Civic Engagement
Serving, Voting, and Speaking Out: Bonner Students Reflect on Civic Engagement

Bonner: More Than a Model, a Lived Experience

By Gretchen Mielke, Dickinson College graduate and former Bonner leader, current Fulbright English teaching assistantship fellow

Bonner Leader Gretchen Mielke addressing the Bonner Congress meeting held at Dickinson College.

Bonner Leader Gretchen Mielke addressing the Bonner Congress meeting held at Dickinson College.

College graduation inevitably causes one to reflect on the past four years. How far have I come? What did I learn? What would have happened if I had not met that person or participated in a certain activity? For me, Dickinson College’s Bonner leader program is inseparable from my college experience. It was not just an extracurricular activity that I did in my spare time. I had plenty of those: golf, recreational floor hockey, spinning, and flag football. The Bonner leader program was my partner in crime throughout my four years: academically, professionally, and personally.

Bonner and I met in late October of my freshman year when John Miyahara, director of the Office of Religious Life and Community Services, handed me a stack of papers. He told me, “This is a really great program that I would like you to get started.” As a freshman, new to both campus and community, the task was a bit daunting: get to know the ins and outs of the program, write an application, set up the interview process, recruit and accept new members, and facilitate meetings. It was difficult with new challenges around every corner. During the spring semester, as we were accepting new members, the United States was on the brink of war and all incoming AmeriCorps programs were frozen. Thus, Dickinson Bonner leaders had to decide whether to continue without the monetary educational awards. Fortunately, my class decided that the educational award was just the icing on the cake of a great program. We chose to proceed.

As I was learning how to be a leader and facilitator, my placement for the next two years was in the Dickinson College Student Garden. For ten hours a week, I worked with great people, learned about sustainable agriculture, tutored children about growing food, and delivered food to the community. My Bonner placement offered more than a shallow perspective on hunger or the performance of charity. It was an educational experience that connected the classroom and the community. Everyday life illustrated the theories regarding socioeconomic inequalities, power structures, and hegemony that I had learned about as an American studies major.

Moreover, not only did Bonner extend my classroom into the community, it brought me into the community as well. I got to know the people, culture, and problems of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, making it not just a place to go to college, but also my hometown. Likewise, Bonner itself has become another home away from home. When I am performing my various roles for Bonner, either on campus or nationally, I am most myself. The comfort that comes from doing something that you love while you are supported by people and an institution that wants to see you succeed is invaluable.

Lastly, Bonner is integrated into almost every line in my résumé. The professional skills I obtained from my service placement, Bonner Student Congress meetings, internships at the foundation, conference planning, and representing the foundation on an advisory board have made me competitive as I enter the job market. Bonner has helped shape me into the person that I am. More importantly, I know that it will be there supporting me as I become the person that I will be.

Questions, comments, and suggested resources should be directed to campbell@aacu.org.
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