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Published: April 27, 2017
Bonner Leaders Courey France ’20 and Dom Talarico ’18 recently volunteered at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm as a group social and service outing.
Bonner Leaders Courey France ’20 and Dom Talarico ’18 recently volunteered at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm as a group social and service outing.
From left Natasha Acosta ’17 and Arielle Pollock ’20 helped with the United Way Suncoast Obstacle Course Race back in February. Pollock said, “Bonner presents me with endless opportunities, and I'm excited to see where it takes me in the years to come.”
From left Natasha Acosta ’17 and Arielle Pollock ’20 helped with the United Way Suncoast Obstacle Course Race back in February. Pollock said, “Bonner presents me with endless opportunities, and I'm excited to see where it takes me in the years to come.”

Arielle Pollock ’20 spends two days a week tutoring children, helping them with their homework, reports or just sitting and reading together.

As a Bonner Leader, she has been working with the R.I.C.H. House, a safe haven for at-risk children, since day one as a first-year student, an opportunity she said has given her a quick connection to her new home.

“Within my first couple weeks in the program I was fully immersed in not only the University but the Tampa community. Already, I have made connections with countless nonprofits, conducted interviews with potential new (Bonner) members, served as chair on a committee, organized retreats and been elected to represent our program nationally,” said Pollock, a biology major from Wilmington, NC. “Bonner presents me with endless opportunities, and I'm excited to see where it takes me in the years to come.”

The UT Bonner Leader Program provides scholarships, leadership development and pairs students with a single nonprofit to work with until graduation. The students are required to work nine hours a week at their assigned nonprofit, and they spend two hours a week in small-group enrichment seminars on campus covering issues of professionalism and spanning the six tenants of the program: community building, civic engagement, diversity, international perspective, spiritual exploration and social justice.

“The goal is their overall development. From when they step in as a first-year to graduating — in those four years, we hope they’ve really developed,” said Ian McGinnity, director of community engagement. “We want them to be able to take the skills they’re gaining and apply them to life after UT.”

It was the longevity and ability to make a meaningful difference that attracted Talia Ashby ’17, a Spanish and sociology double major, to the program.

Ashby, of Tampa, interns with Metropolitan Ministries in the outreach program, directly serving the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless with food and clothing from the Metropolitan Ministries food pantry and emergency clothing store.

“When I read about the Bonner Leader Program, I was attracted to the idea of growing in my leadership skills while also gaining lots of experience and time in community service,” Ashby said. “I have met people from all around the world who come to Metro and need a helping hand. There is no greater feeling than being able to see an elderly couple receive food, a baby receive clothes and toys, or a single mother find a place to live through our efforts.”

Bonner Leaders started at UT five years ago, in August 2012. It’s a national program with Florida roots at UT, Stetson University and Rollins College. UT has students placed at a range of nonprofits, from the United Way to the Tampa Downtown Partnership to the Glazer Children’s Museum.

“We emphasize leadership in the program,” McGinnity said, “and we hope that when they graduate they’ll be a leader in their community.”

Getting accepted to the Bonner program was the deciding factor for Jamie Zale ’18 to attend UT. It gave her the opportunity to continue with her passion for service while not having to take on another part-time job. She has served in several capacities with the program on campus, this year as co-chair of a project for Suicide Awareness Day, and managing the UT Bonner Instagram account as the marketing chair. She also created a mentoring program for new Bonners to make the transition to UT easier on first-year students.

“Bonner taught me how to use my resources throughout different parts of my life and has shaped my change of career goals,” said Zale, a communication major from Campbell Hall, NY, who has decided to switch from a career in politics to one working with nonprofits. “Bonner has been such a rewarding aspect of my college experience. It has given me the opportunity to grow as a leader.”

 
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