I recently heard about a spring break occurrence that reminded of how every day—on this campus and in the wider world—Oberlinians commit acts of kindness and altruism that may go unnoticed. Sometimes this happens through established programs—teaching Oberlin school kids through Spanish in the Elementary Schools, for instance. Other times it is just a spontaneous reaction to an unexpected challenge.
I’m told that toward the end of spring break students who were playing and touring with OSteel got stranded in rural Tennessee when their truck broke down. It turned out not to be a quick fix so they were looking at a significant delay. Fortunately, some of the students volunteered to stay with the truck, allowing others—who had pressing deadlines or other obligations—to make their way back to campus more quickly.
Those who stayed with the truck ended up staying for 36 hours as I understand it. They didn’t ask for any kind of reward or recognition for this unplanned sojourn in the middle South. They just stepped up and helped their fellow students.
We see these behaviors every day at Oberlin—in the classrooms, on our athletic teams, in student organizations, and among our faculty and staff, who routinely go above and beyond their duties to help our students and our community.
Bonner Scholars Program Celebrates 20 Years
This week, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of a program that exemplifies Oberlin’s deep commitment to community service—the Bonner Scholars Program, which is an important part of the Bonner Center for Service and Learning.
The program provides students who have demonstrated outstanding community service with the financial support needed to attend college and continue to be involved in the community. The Bonner Scholarship is available to students who commit to community service while they attend college.
Since 2005, Bonner Scholars and Bonner Leaders have performed more than 195,000 service hours at 92 service sites in the Oberlin area, 135 sites in northeast Ohio, 33 states in the United States, and more than 30 countries in the world.
There are now 299 Oberlin Bonner Scholar alumni. Some of them will be returning to celebrate with us at a dinner this coming Saturday. Just six years ago this month, we were honored when the Bonner Scholars Program at Oberlin College was generously endowed by the Bonner Foundation. In fact, Oberlin’s Center for Service and Learning added Bonner to its name in recognition of the foundation’s gift.
During the current academic year, Oberlin College was selected by the Bonner Foundation and the American Association of Colleges and Universities to participate in a High-Impact Initiative integrating best practices in academic achievement with best practices for civic engagement.
We are very proud of the accomplishments of our Bonner Scholars, as well as of all Oberlin students who serve their communities. These students received terrific support in their endeavors from the staff of the Bonner Center for Service and Learning including Beth Blissman, Trecia Pottinger, Bo Arbogast, and Tanya Boster. Many thanks to all of you!
In March, Oberlin College was awarded the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for our community service efforts. The Honor Roll was launched in 2006, and annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement. It recognizes institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve.
Shedding Light on the Darkness
I also want to thank the organizers of last night’s Yasiin Bey/Mos Def concert, which brought students and others together in the wake of last month’s bias events. Bey/Def said something that stuck with me: “The light is not afraid of the darkness.” I took it to mean that we should focus on what is good and not be overcome by bigotry or hatred. The concert, including the opening student acts, did just that. Congratulations to everyone involved. Let us keep that spirit alive.
April in Oberlin
April is going to be a busy month, even by Oberlin’s high busyness standards. There are many activities, so I’ll name just a few. There are limited tickets available for the Cleveland International Film Festival. The 17th annual Colors of Rhythm performance will take place, architect Maya Lin will giving a Convocation lecture, libertarian Ron Paul will be lecturing, and past winners of the Cooper Competition will perform and give master classes. This weekend, Oberlin’s student orators will have a chance to strut their stuff and compete for cash prizes at the second annual Charles Finney Oratorical Competition on Saturday in the West Lecture Hall of the Oberlin Science Center. And that is just the tip of the events and activities iceberg.
April is also time for the admissions office’s annual All Roads events for prospective Obies. So please join me in welcoming prospective students and families—the future of Oberlin. The All Roads period is always exciting. Students and parents come from all over the country and around the globe to visit and to decide whether this is the place they will spend their college years. I am always very proud to hear that visitors find our campus beautiful and our students, faculty, staff and fellow Oberlin residents warm and friendly.
Thanks in advance to the many students who host, and to the faculty and staff who make extra efforts to welcome prospective students. Please share with these students and their families the places and people that you think make this campus so extraordinary and so rewarding.
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