Torrence Banks, Managing Editor
In a year where it seems like everything is constantly changing, the service of the Morehouse College Bonner, Adams and UPS Scholars remains the same. While the platforms for service and events are virtual to help curve the spread of the coronavirus, students are still serving in Atlanta and in surrounding communities.
“Ironically enough, there’s not much adjustment so to speak,” Assistant Director of the Bonner Office of Community Service Kevin Chapman, Jr. ‘06 said. “One of the sayings within the Bonner Scholars Program that kind of echoes throughout the office is that ‘Bonner does not go where he want, he goes where he is needed.’ The only thing that’s really changed for us is the platforms that we are using to serve.
“We’re still tutoring, we’re still supporting research, we’re still fundraising, we’re still marketing organizations and highlighting how others can get involved and be the change our community demands.”
Director of the Bonner Office of Community Service Dr. Monty Whitney said, “The biggest difference is that everything is virtual. The Bonner Scholars have been really good doing the community service at the different sites. We’ve been able to have at least six of our long-term sites come up with projects for our students to do virtually.”
This year, Senior Bonner Intern, Jared Bailey’s experience in the program is a little different than past years when he has gotten to work with other scholars in office. Regardless of being virtual, Bailey still feels the impact from his service.
“Our work can be done and our voices can be heard on our social media pages,” Bailey said. “Whether that is through our Marketing Coordinators who are doing a wonderful job or it’s from our scholars at different sites. Whether that includes mentoring or community-based research, we still are going hard and working to make that difference in the community.
“Just knowing that you’re still making that change and going where you’re needed, I think that is the most beautiful thing about the program. Even in this time, it still allows you to grow as a leader.”
The preparation for service opportunities has been completely different from past years. Due to the uncertainty of whether the college would be solely virtual, a residential college or hybrid, the program had to craft multiple plans for whatever situation presented itself.
“The preparation has been tremendous,” Chapman said. “Typically, we would like to finalize all service sites and the roles that our community partners need for the upcoming year during the earlier part of the summer. But, with everything that’s going on, we tripled our planning and finalized opportunities in August as many of our partners were deeply impacted.
“As the college and other organizations were determining what this fall would look like, we were doing the same thing and coming up with several contingency plans.”
This year, Morehouse’s Bonner Scholar Program has organized and implemented a partnership with the Truly Living Well (TLW) Urban Farm, which is in Ashview Heights neighborhood just outside of the Lowery security gate. Previously, the program has partnered with Truly Living Well on events occasionally, but now this will be a site where students can serve daily.
“Their focus is environmental sustainability, but really centered upon health,” Chapman said. “Making sure that residents understand how to prepare the land, how to leverage the land for healthy food options, while also helping with food security. There is some economic impacts as well as TLW sell some of the items at a discounted rate to make sure that we meet the needs of the community that are located in food deserts and those without healthier options.”
Whitney said, “Truly Living Well have our scholars connecting with seniors in the area and letting them know where they can get fresh produce and things free.”
The Bonner Office is also looking to support the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) more often via a new partnership where Adams and Bonner Scholars will serve on a regular basis and create opportunities for other students to engage. Traditionally, Morehouse and Spelman freshman Bonner Scholars would volunteer there to help clean up the community in those areas. WAWA’s main goal is to protect the waterways in the community.
“We have some scholars that are assigned there throughout the year and they have several councils that our scholars will be able to participate in that affect environmental justice efforts,” Chapman said.
In addition to the new service sites, also referred to as partnership with purpose, there is also a new initiative that Bonner Scholars are taking part in, Apple’s HBCU C2 Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create initiative, which is headed by Dr. Monique Earl-Lewis. Morehouse College actually serves as a regional hub for the initiative which is nationally led by Tennessee State University. The initiative seeks to bring coding experiences to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and underserved communities.
“Coding in a way to address the community needs is our partnership,” Chapman said. “Our freshman and senior Bonner Scholars are taking the Code and Create course this fall and are learning different Apple products and leveraging those products to deliver items that will benefit our community partners and the communities that they serve. Scholars will become Apple certified teachers and will have the opportunity train others in the community who can leverage it to increase their earning potential.”
Bailey said, “One of our first opportunities we were given was to become Apple teachers. We can use those skills to educate and create solutions in our communities.”
One initiative that Bailey is excited for this semester is the approval of a scholarship program to help seniors at his high school, Fulton Leadership Academy.
“I’m all about giving back and paving the way for those in my village,” Bailey said. “And so, these young men need all the assistance they can, especially during these times. I just want to be who I needed when I was younger.”
Bonner and Adams Scholars have also engaged in research projects on policies. Scholars have researched numerous policy issues such as homelessness and hunger, voter suppression to name a couple. This opportunity allows for students to have an impact on a deeper manner despite not being able to serve at organizations physically.
With the Presidential Election coming up in November, there is a heavy emphasis on voter registration and voter education. Bonner Civic Engagement Coordinator, Julien Serrano-O’Neil ’21 is implementing a voter education initiative that highlights the importance of political participation during local and state elections and how they are related to our cries for social justice.
“There are a lot of voter registration and voter education opportunities out there for students,” Whitney said. “We want to make sure that all our students are registered, all our students vote and everyone they know around them is registered and votes.”
Currently, the Bonner Office of Community Service is planning to have its annual It’s On the ‘HOUSE event. This event provides services to those experiencing homelessness and hunger.
The main component of the annual event is to educate the college community about hunger and homelessness, identify resources in our local communities that can leveraged to assist those in needs and connect those in need to those resources. Annually, scholars coordinate free services in Archer Hall that include, healthcare screenings, free food, haircuts, clothing and toiletries giveaway, free food and plenty of laughter and dancing. Oftentimes, people are a labeled by their circumstance or experience, but this is an annual and more concentrated effort to engage and celebrate the human spirit of resiliency, being social, and caring.
Atlanta University Center students can get involved and learn more about service opportunities and future events by logging into the Servant Leaders app on My Portal. This app has a list of service opportunities that address the quality of life concerns of Black Americans, with a special interest in an often neglected area of Atlanta, the westside of Atlanta. The Office welcomes the addition of any service opportunities that are not currently in the Servant Leaders community service app that positively impact the lives of African Americans.
“The Servant Leaders community service app is the platform for students to discover different service opportunities,” Chapman said. “Our priority issue-based areas are education, environment, sustainability, hunger, homelessness and political participation.”
Whitney said, “The mission of Morehouse is to ‘Develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service.’ We know that most people at Morehouse have done some type of community service. There probably isn’t a student at Morehouse that has not done community service at Morehouse, either in high school or continuing now. We would just like to see more students participate and do more.”
Students can learn more about the community service opportunities and how to get involved during the semester by following @Morehouseserves on Instagram and Twitter or searching the hashtag #MorehouseServes. Be sure to tag them and use the hashtag so that we can motivate and information others how they too can be the change that the world desperately needs.