students planting flowers and bushes in a garden
Community service work often include home beautification projects. Photo credit: Nate Parsons
Community Engagement

For many students, engaging the broader community is an important aspect of their Oberlin experience. Each year, more than 1,200 students work with nonprofits, government agencies, and schools

The Bonner Center serves as a hub on campus to connect students with organizations in Oberlin and beyond. The center promotes ethical and meaningful student engagement that links students’ interests with community goals.

Nonprofits in Oberlin work on a spectrum of issues, including environmental sustainability, food security, and community arts programs:

  • Oberlin Community Services , a responsive community organization that provides direct assistance, referrals, and other services to Oberlin and southern Lorain County residents who need help meeting basic needs.
  • Oberlin Heritage Center , a nationally-accredited and award-winning history organization and museum with strong local support.
  • Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Firelands Chapter , a part of the largest-ever merger of land trusts in the United States forming a private, nonprofit conservation organization for Northeast Ohio.

Many Oberlin students serve with schools and programs that support youth in the Oberlin community:

  • America Reads , a literacy program that serves elementary school children.
  • MAD Factory (Music, Arts, Drama) teaches theatre year-round to students ages 3-19.
  • Oberlin Early Childhood Center , a not-for-profit early care and education program that serves children from six weeks to kindergarten.

Community-based learning courses allow students to integrate experiential components with their academic learning. Examples of CBL courses:

  • Students in the Comparative American Studies course Latina/o/x Oral History interview residents in nearby Lorain and document these experiences through a multimedia project .
  • Jennifer Fraser’s ethnomusicology course Music as Activism explores how skills developed through the study of ethnomusicology can be applied to real-world problems. Students partner with a community organization, thinking about how to use music to help the organization achieve their goals.

Programs offered by the Bonner Center include the Community-Based Work-Study Program, the Bonner Scholars Program, and Ninde Scholars Program.