Every year, the Centre College Bonner Program employs summer interns who assist the Bonner staff as they prepare for the school year. This year, Alex Icaza ’22 (Modesto, California), Landy Lin ’22 (Louisville, Kentucky) and Aranxa Parra ’22 (Edinburg, Texas) were selected for the internship, and due to COVID-19, they completed their internships virtually.
All Bonner Scholars are required to complete two funded Summers of Service. Bonner Leaders are not required to complete Summers of Service, but they are eligible to apply for funding. Typically, Summers of Service are full-time placements with non-profit or government agencies. Due to the pandemic, the Bonner Foundation made the decision to reduce the required number of hours and encouraged Bonner programs to help students identify virtual service opportunities.
This summer, 19 students are participating in Summer of Service. Six students are working on internal initiatives with Centre’s Bonner Program or the National Bonner Foundation. Four students are serving as interns with CentreWorks, and nine are working directly with non-profits.
The students are working alongside Sophia Lombardo, coordinator for community service and the Bonner Program, and Jessie Weasner, director of community service and the Bonner Program, in planning out logistics for meetings and orientations for the fall semester.
Lombardo said the biggest hurdle this summer was problem solving how the Bonner program can keep a tight-knit community while also offering alternative virtual options for the program this year.
The interns were able to bring in their own ideas and projects, and they decided to hold virtual socials for the incoming Bonners and connect one-on-one with those students.
“Since my first year in Bonner, I have always been so passionate about our program and the work we do in the Danville community,” Para said. “I loved being in the leadership team this past year, and I wanted to take on more responsibility when envisioning what the program would look like this year.
“With all the changes happening, I really wanted to ensure we prepped well for the year and kept the community we worked so hard on building this past year, regardless of where we might find ourselves this fall,” she continued. “I also wanted to welcome the new Bonners into the program and answer any concerns they had regarding Centre, the college experience or being a Bonner, because I know how terrifying it can be when you have no guidance.”
This was Lin’s second summer interning with the Bonner Program, and her biggest takeaway from her experience this year was learning the importance of flexibility.
“This year has been the complete opposite of last year,” she said. “I spent the summer on campus last year and everything was conducted in-person. I also had to plan to the fall All Bonner Retreat. Though things looked quite different this year, I think the core Bonner values still exist. Flexibility has become everything. This experience has taught me to adapt to change and always be ready to make changes. I believe the internship was successful this summer because the other two interns and I all had a flexible mindset.”
These three interns share a passion for the Bonner Program, and they have been able to work together with Lombardo and Weasner and learn more about the program and what it means to them.
“Being able to work with Jessie and Sophia and learn more about what they are passionate about has been inspiring,” Parra said. “I have also learned a lot from Alex and Landy and am super excited to be leaders of the program alongside of them. I have become more assertive and more confident in my leadership skills, whether it be communicating or planning.
“Working with them during these times has been quite an experience in which we have grown fonder of each other,” she continued. “We would have meetings in which Jessie was super pessimistic about our current times and Sophia would be the complete opposite, rainbows and unicorns and tarot cards. It was so refreshing to hear from them every week and have people who supported us through these times.”
Icaza believes Bonner is one of the best organizations to work with, especially during a time like this.
“Jessie and Sophia have been very flexible, and understanding of the many different situations everyone has found themselves in,” he concluded. “They try their hardest to make everything as easy as possible for the most amount of people. Their positivity and optimism definitely reach the rest of the community.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
August 14, 2020