This year, five students have been selected to participate in the CCE’s pilot of the Bonner Fellowship. This program aligns with the well-established nationally organized network of schools that have a Bonner program at their institution. These Bonner Fellows will engage in a yearlong paid internship with a community partner, in addition to working on community building and social justice education, as well as skill building to effectively create social change. The holistic nature of this program is designed to give students the education, preparation, and dialogue that empower them to be intentional in their community work. Launching this program at CC gives fellows access to a network of partner organizations, community engagement offices, other fellows, and alumni.
“Bringing the Bonner Fellowship to CC addresses issues that the CCE wants to prioritize: providing paid opportunities for community engagement for students who have to work while in school,” says Dr. Jordan Radke, CCE director. It also adds to the programs offered by the CCE, including BreakOut, the Community Engaged Scholars program, and the Community Engaged Leadership Certificate program. The Bonner Fellowship offers a program that is high-commitment and high-impact, which fills a niche in the CCE continuum of opportunities. The fellowship is intended to open engagement to students who need to work through college and do not have the same access to leisure time as other CC students – this includes underrepresented, first generation, and low income background students. This year’s five students were selected “based on their merit and passions and understanding of community engagement,” stated Dr. Radke.
This year the CCE office recruited a variety of organizations in the community. According to Dr. Radke, “we were intentional in selecting partners who suited several criteria – they needed to cover a range of issues, be located nearby for easy transportation for interns, and offer internships. These internships needed to provide our students with meaningful work, and the opportunity to scale up their responsibilities over time, because ideally this is a 4-year program.” The CCE sent student finalists to interview at the community partner organizations, and matched the students and partners to each other. This year, the partners are the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Colorado Springs School District 11, Meadows Park Community Center, Southern Colorado Health Network, and the City of Colorado Springs (Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services).
The future of the program is contingent on funding for next year, provided that this year’s pilot program is successful. Dr. Radke hopes that the program will develop to support up to 10 students, and that the CCE “can leverage the expertise of both community partners and faculty. The program’s small group meetings are collaborative, and we want to create a learning community around the program.” If the program continues, Dr. Radke would also like to see the program become integrated into the admissions process as a scholarship to support committed students, and function as a recruiting tool. Currently, the Bonner Fellows meet three weeks out of every block to check in, and they also attend additional programming outside the blockly requirements for their internships. Their most recent workshop was on reciprocity in community engagement, said Dr. Radke. “We discussed how to go into a community humbly – you have something to offer and also something to learn.”
To learn more about the CCE’s Bonner Fellowship, visit https://www.coloradocollege.edu/offices/cce/students/bonnerfellowship.html.