Oberlin’s Bonner Scholars program has been connecting classrooms to communities since 1993. Operated by the Bonner Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Teaching, and Research and supported by the national Bonner Foundation, the scholars program provides four-year community service scholarships to approximately 60 Oberlin students who are the first in their families to attend college or come from underrepresented populations. Bonner Scholars participate in intensive, developmental community-engagement experiences throughout their time at Oberlin.
Each year, 15 incoming first-year students are selected as Bonner Scholars. Their experience is guided by designated student leaders, who facilitate community projects and engage with the entire campus about service opportunities.
Bonner leader Wyae’ Stewart is a third-year politics major with minors in law and Africana studies. She is completing her service learning with the federal math education program America Counts and has previously tutored local schoolchildren as a Ninde Scholar, worked in the office of Congresswoman Nikema Williams, and with the National Society of Leadership and Success. A native of Atlanta, Stewart is committed to service in education and housing, and she’s taking the first steps to reform education across the country.
We connected with Stewart to learn more about her work as a Bonner leader and how she fosters service at Oberlin.
What does the Bonner Scholars Program mean to you?
The Bonner Scholar Program is a family that is not only committed to doing work with one another throughout our communities, but assisting each other on a daily basis to become better people for and with others.
How has your service with Bonner corresponded to social issues you care about?
Even though I am not working directly with educational policy at America Counts, I have interacted with students, teachers, and parents and gauged their views on how these children are being taught. In particular, I enjoy working closely with the kids, as I remember feeling how they felt when I was that age. Through this experience, I know that when I go into policy, there are aspects that I want to target to ensure that our students are safe in all aspects!
How has your service with Bonner influenced your time at Oberlin?
I came to Oberlin blindly, without a visit, and with little knowledge of the school. As soon as I arrived, the Bonner program was extremely welcoming, which made finding a service site easier. Through my service, I have found mentors who continue to support me and guide me through my Oberlin journey.
What have you learned about the Oberlin community through your service?
I’ve learned that Oberlin is a tight-knit community that is very engaged. I saw this more recently while working with my on-campus organization, ABUSUA [Oberlin’s Black Student Union], where we partnered with the Black Student-Athlete Group to sponsor a block party to welcome community members to meet and interact with students in the college. Since I work in the school system and know many students and their parents, I used that connection to get the community involved. This event turned out to be a success because a lot of the students and their parents participated! We are excited to continue this partnership through the years. I know that my service with America Counts helped sponsor this connection, and I am forever grateful for that.
Can you share a favorite Bonner memory?
One of my most cherished Bonner memories was the All-Bonner Retreat! Though this is not a regular event, it was where I bonded with so many other Bonners who I never had the opportunity to interact with outside of All-Bonner meetings. I enjoyed playing our favorite games such as Mafia and singing karaoke.
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