Last August in a special orientation session for the students in the new Bonner Leaders program at Wagner, one by one the 12 freshmen and their parents expressed their hopes and dreams.
Not a dry eye was left by the time it ended, says Melanie Rafael ’17.
“We’re an emotional group,” she says. “We are like a family,” adds her fellow Bonner student, Sourajit Dey ’17.
Bonner Leaders is a national service-based scholarship program. But, as Rafael notes, it “is so much more than I thought it was going to be, and I love it.” The 12 students meet weekly throughout their first year at Wagner to learn about civic engagement and leadership and to reflect on the service they are providing in the community, which adds up to at least 10 hours per week. They also help to craft the program along with their advisors in Wagner’s Center for Leadership and Service.
Over the course of their four years, the Bonner students will progress from being volunteers to leading programs in the community to becoming public advocates on social issues. Every year, 12 more students will come into the program.
“The personal and academic growth I’ve experienced way outnumbers all that I had in high school,” says Dey. “I wouldn’t have gotten this far personally and academically without Bonner.”