The University of Nevada, Reno Honors Program has implemented a Bonner Leader Program, developed by the Bonner Foundation, to provide students with financial support and opportunities to engage with their community. The program aims to allow first-generation, underrepresented, and/or low-income students the option of going to college and giving back to their community through service initiatives.
Honors Program Director Tamara Valentine sees the Bonner Leader Program as aligning well with the goals of the Honors Program.
"The Honors Program has always been committed to public service as we have had all Honors students be involved in civic engagement for their academic career," Valentine said. "The Bonner Foundation came to our attention because their goal was to allow students of diversity an option to have education but at the same time give back to the community."
Honors students are required to do a minimum of 15 hours of community service in their first semester, but with the Bonner Leader Program they will complete 140 hours of service each semester. The 13 students will all be volunteering at Dorothy Lemelson STEM Academy Elementary School in Reno, formerly Sierra Vista Elementary School, and have the opportunity to expand to different volunteer options that are more aligned to their major.
Honors Program Assistant Director Erin Edgington has high hopes for students giving back now and in the future.
"Students are learning about health and wellness in PE classes and those with environmental interests are planting gardens with Cooperative Extension," Edgington said. "We're trying to make it something that students can connect back with their majors."
Honors Bonner Leader Coordinator Lindsey Forbes sees the Program as a stepping stone for students to rise in their ambitions in service-learning.
"This Program allows the students to set aside time and actually build connections with these programs and work their way up," Forbes said. "Right now they might be a volunteer at a school but next year they could be a site coordinator."
The Program will continue throughout the four years of the students' undergraduate careers at the University, and plans are in place to expand the program to serve up to 40 students by fall 2020.
Applications for the Honors Bonner Leader Program will open back up in the spring.