Leading Change While Serving Others

Now in its fourth year at Rollins, the Bonner Leaders Program helps students engage social problems, innovate solutions, and lead others to do the same.

(Photos by Scott Cook) (Photos by Scott Cook)

When Cailah Garcia-Lopez ’16 and Avani Mooljee ’16 walked across the commencement stage in May, they became the first graduates of Rollins’ fledgling Bonner Leaders Program, a national initiative that provides service-learning, leadership, and social justice opportunities to students who seek to alleviate social issues and find ways to work for change throughout their careers.

The Bonner Leaders Program was developed more than 20 years ago by the Bonner Foundation, a national philanthropic organization based in Princeton, New Jersey. Today, approximately 60 colleges and universities participate in the leadership program. The program at Rollins, which started in 2013, chooses eight to 12 first-year students to form a Bonner Leader cohort before the start of each fall semester.

“We’re trying to create the next generation of community leaders, changemakers, and global citizens,” says Shelby McGuire ’15, the Bonner coordinator in Rollins’ Center for Leadership & Community Engagement.

Those selected as Bonner Leaders typically have experience with community service, work six to eight volunteer hours a week assisting a community nonprofit organization, and take special courses on issues relating to community engagement and leading positive change. Each Bonner Leader receives a grant of $3,000 a year from Rollins.

“The students grow and learn together,” McGuire says. “They are bringing all this experience back to the campus and sharing it with the greater Rollins community. The thing I stress in talking about service is that in the Bonner Program you don’t have to wait until you have your degree to start making a difference. You can start the moment you walk onto campus, and you’ll have a support network to help you.”

Meet the Bonner Leaders


(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

The Global Do-Gooder

From Orlando to Nepal and Washington, D.C., to Zimbabwe, Avani Mooljee ’16’s service knows no borders.

Read more

___________________________________________________________

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

The Artist

Meredith Ewen ’19 makes the artistic experience more inclusive for students with special needs—starting with imagination and some squishy paint.

Read more

___________________________________________________________

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

The Entertainer

From hosting bingo to teaching improv, Malakai Green ’17 is using his stage presence to brighten the lives of older adults.

Read more 

___________________________________________________________

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

The Teacher and the Student

There’s a learning process to serving, and elementary education major Abigail Goecker ’17 says connecting with youngsters is a two-way street.

Read more