Oberlin’s Bonner Scholars program has been connecting classrooms to communities for more than 30 years. 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, approximately 15 incoming first-year students are selected as Bonner Scholars. Their experience is guided by designated student leaders, who lead community projects and engage with the entire campus community about service opportunities. Fourth-year Bonner leader Ari Leandry majors in comparative American studies with minors in history and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, and an integrative concentration in journalism. Her previous Bonner work has revolved around NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio—a reflection of her deep passion for reproductive justice and mutual aid. A native of nearby Lorain, Ohio, Leandry finds herself serving the very community in which she was raised.
We asked Leandry about her life as a Bonner Scholar.
Can you describe the Bonner Scholar Program to someone who is unfamiliar?
The Bonner Scholar Program provides an outlet for students passionate about social justice and service to further engage with their greater college community. Bonner enables these students to build connections that will help them personally and professionally.
How has your service corresponded to social issues you care about?
I was always interested in engaging with reproductive justice efforts, but I did not know how to pursue this interest. Through Bonner, I had support to seek out opportunities to work with reproductive justice organizations in Ohio and understand how I can turn this passion into an actual career. I was able to explore my interest in reproductive justice and grassroots activism. I built connections in my field that I otherwise would not have found if it weren't for Bonner's encouragement of exploring academic and personal interests through service. I appreciate the diversity of service opportunities that Bonner provides, and I feel fortunate to have been able to connect with reproductive justice advocates in Ohio and build a greater personal network in this issue area.
How has your Bonner experience influenced your time at Oberlin?
Bonner allowed me to build strong relationships and connections with other students who shared my passion for community service and social justice. Through Bonner, I was able to participate in meaningful and impactful service projects, which not only contributed to the community but also allowed me to develop my skills in leadership and teamwork.
What have you learned about the Oberlin community through your service?
One of the things that I have learned is the extent to which social justice and equity are at the forefront of people's minds. I have also learned about the importance of collaboration and partnership in addressing community needs.
What is unique to you about the Bonner Scholar Program?
What makes Bonner unique is the tight-knit community that accompanies it. The support and guidance of the Bonner staff and my fellow Bonner Scholars helped me navigate the challenges of college life and find a sense of belonging on campus. They provided me with resources, advice, and encouragement that allowed me to thrive academically and personally.
Share a fond Bonner memory!
I loved getting to connect more deeply with my fellow Bonner Scholars at our Fall Bonner Retreat in 2021!
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