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Bonner Leaders Dedicated to Service

Published: October 11, 2013
Shantelle Eddy ’15 embraces Academy Prep sixth-grader Tress Jacobs.
Shantelle Eddy ’15 embraces Academy Prep sixth-grader Tress Jacobs.

Shantelle Eddy ’15 ran across the school courtyard to embrace one of the Academy Prep students she’s become close to.

Pumpkin, otherwise known as Tress Jacobs, is a sixth grader at the Academy Prep Center of Tampa, a nonprofit private middle school in Ybor City for students who qualify for need-based scholarships. Eddy is an intern who has been at the school for a year and a half, and plans to be there until she graduates.

That’s because Eddy is part of the UT Bonner Leader Program, which provides scholarships, leadership development and pairs student with a single nonprofit to work with until graduation. It was the longevity and ability to make a meaningful difference that attracted Eddy to the program.

“We do this work on a day-to-day basis until we graduate,” said Eddy, an applied sociology major from the Virgin Islands, who works as a program assistant. “That’s as plain as I can say it. We’re making an impact.”

Cristina Gutierrez-Brewster, community relations coordinator for Academy Prep , said Eddy provides much-needed communication between the school staff and parents, who in lieu of tuition provide about 50 hours of volunteer service at the school.

“She’s really increased the communication with all our families, but really, the idea of having someone here on campus, at the university level, is providing an example to our students,” Gutierrez-Brewster said. “That’s the biggest service the Bonner program gives us.”

Eddy, who is also a resident assistant, is one of four in the inaugural cohort of Bonner Leaders, started at UT in August 2012. An additional six freshmen were added this fall.

The students are required to work eight to 10 hours a week at their assigned nonprofit. They attend small-group enrichment seminars on campus covering social justice issues like racism, race and ethnic identity, gender identity and leadership development. The national program only has Florida roots at UT and Stetson.

“It’s a very intentional program that is built around these small-group cohorts,” said Kelly Callahan, director of community engagement.

Stephanie Woods ’15, who said the bonds she’s formed with her cohort will be everlasting, noted that what enticed her to become a Bonner Leader was the career development aspect of the program.

“I’ve always been one to live for the future. The faster it comes, the happier I am,” said Woods, a sociology major with a minor in law and justice. “This program was calling my name.”

Woods, of Maryland, interns with the United Way, providing financial literacy on budgeting, computer skills and assessing current programs for success.

Woods and Eddy both agreed they find great purpose in volunteering.

“It’s not only that we’re making change here, but we want to change the world,” Eddy said. “It sounds corny, but we want to learn how to make the world a better place to be.”

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