At the Active Citizen Conference in February, Bonners and students were asked to reflect on themselves and their service work in creative ways. Held at William & Mary, sophomore Bonners at UR and civically engaged students from surrounding areas came together to discuss how to be effective, active citizens. Students had the opportunity to interact with students from many schools, and speakers shared their advice and experiences.
Representatives from UR Bonner presented on how to handle pressure and uncertainty. The panel asked students to think about how they react under stressful situations in the terms of a metaphor. The panel told a story where boiling water was a stressor. In this situation, you could be a carrot, turning mushy and soft under the stress of boiling water. You could also react in the same way as an egg and become hardened and tough from stressful conditions. Lastly, you can be like coffee, which changes its stressful environment. Coffee makes something positive out of a stressful situation. It betters the situation, making a delicious product and aroma. The exercise guided students to think about how they would act in a stressful situation. The presenters then helped students make action plans on how to tackle future stressful situations in a positive manner.
The other sessions varied in topic but the same themes were woven throughout the conference. The importance of empathy, open-mindedness, persistence, curiosity, and mindfulness were constantly discussed. It is important for our sophomore Bonner cohort to take the time to think about their roles in service because Bonner is such a big part of our lives. Sophomore exchange was a chance for participants to learn, connect and reflect. The conference gave students tools to become more aware and to make deeper connections. However, one presenter brought up how it’s okay to leave the conference with more questions than answers. Reflection is an ongoing process as we continue with our work as Bonners.
By Rebecca Nguyen, ’17
You can put the student in RVA, but you can’t put RVA into the student…
I remember first moment I felt like I was a part of the greater Richmond community very well. Up until that moment I felt (like many UR students) hopelessly alienated from the city. Sure, I’d venture into Carytown for meals and shopping on weekends, and sometimes I’d even make it all the way downtown for concerts or events, but I was not a “Richmonder. “
As a UR student, I struggled with finding my identity as a citizen. Was I just a college student, or did I somehow belong in this city that was so close, but seemed so far away? All of these thoughts and feelings flooded my mind each time I’d enter a downtown venue and respond with “VCU” when asked where I attend college because I was ashamed to be associated with the “University of Rich-kids.”
But, those feelings melted away one Friday night last semester when I took my two freshmen mentees on a trip to First Fridays downtown. Because none of us has a car, I arranged for us to meet up and take the shuttle. But when we arrived, the shuttle was full, and I had to think quickly to figure something out for my disappointed mentees. That’s when I realized that The Hop bus would be coming soon; I didn’t know exactly where it went, but I knew it would take us downtown. So, we got on the bus and I asked the driver about the downtown stops. He mentioned a stop on Grace Street and a cross street that I didn’t know. But, from my “Richmond Politics” course at UR Downtown last spring I remembered that a stop on Grace Street would get us close enough to UR Downtown, so we boarded the bus.
When we got off the bus downtown, I realized that two more freshman had followed us on to the bus because we looked like we knew what we were doing and the original shuttle was full. As we were standing on the corner of Grace Street I looked at all of the bright eyed freshman looking back at me, excited to get to know their city, and felt proud that I knew the way to the galleries. I was able to get us there quickly (even though it was a bit of a walk), and I enjoyed watching the freshman revel in their first, First Friday. I had never felt like a Richmonder before, but in that moment, I knew that I was one.
By Emmy Morse, ’15
CCE program registration is in full swing and UR students are loading into service shuttles this week to head to community partners around the city. Several students headed to Northside on the Thursday 10 a.m. shuttle ready to connect with youth at Overby-Sheppard Elementary School.
Lucas, a student from the Czech Republic, is looking forward to “seeing a different culture.” He says education systems in his home country are more equal than in America. He was surprised when he learned about poverty facing schools in Richmond at Overby-Sheppard Elementary orientation.
Jennifer is returning for her second semester as a classroom aide at Overby-Sheppard Elementary. She recalls that it took a while to build trust with the students last semester. Now that Jennifer has relationships with students, she is looking forward to jumping back into the classroom. “By the end of last semester the students remembered me, and I’m excited to see them again today.”
Overby-Sheppard Elementary is a Title I School in the Highland Park neighborhood with an enrollment of 456 students. Title I Schools have been identified as having a high percentage of low-income students. These schools receive additional funding for instructional programs, reading programs, dropout prevention, and services to neglected, delinquent, and migrant children.