Engaged learning through community service opportunities


Sary Guerra Extrada

A mural painted at the Intercultural Engagement Center located in King Hall.

The Bonner Center for Community Service and Learning and the Community Scholars Program at Guilford College offer students the opportunity to become more civically engaged both on campus and with surrounding communities. 

Each year, approximately 60 students are enrolled in the Bonner Scholars Program, performing 140 hours of service work per semester as part of their commitment. The program sustains various community partnerships in the Greensboro area that help to further advance the community engagement experience. 

The Bonner Center also offers students who are not part of the scholarship program the chance to expand their undergraduate experience and earn Federal Work-Study (FWS) awards by working with the program’s service partners.

“The Community Scholars program is a federal work study position that allows students to volunteer with the local community and site of interest,” said Courtney Sandford, coordinator of the Bonner Program.

This work study position gives students the opportunity to give back to the surrounding community. As they engage in service, students gain important knowledge and skills, learning how they can impact the lives of those around them and take part in addressing problems and issues that impact local residents. Additionally, receiving a financial aid award keeps students motivated and instills in them a sense of social responsibility. 

“Students get anywhere from six to 10 hours for their federal work study while volunteering,” Sanford said.

There are currently 10 sites total, on and off-campus, where students can serve as volunteers and complete work-study hours. Among these sites is Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR), an organization started on Guilford’s campus in 2015 by English professor Diya Abdo.

“Diya had the idea of starting ECAR when Pope Francis called on every parish person to host one refugee family,” ”said ECAR Program Coordinator and Outreach Specialist Kathleen Herbst. “…She then thought, why not every college campus?”

Since the start of the program, the college has hosted 82 refugees on campus who have been able to successfully transition to living on their own.

Herbst explained that “the program supports refugee families in their early arrival by providing housing and assistance with resettlement. There is a house on campus where families can move into. They have food, water and necessary utilities.”

Volunteers help to make the houses feel more comfortable, provide tutoring services and help families adjust to a new living environment and surrounding community. 

The support from volunteer students has made it possible for the program to keep running over the years. Their work is crucial and impactful to the lives of families they work with.

“We cannot do this program without volunteers…student volunteers are the light of a program like this,” Herbst said.

Community engagement is vital to all service sites. Furthermore, with engaged learning, diversity and connections with surrounding communities, students are able to have a well-rounded undergraduate experience that enables them to become active members of society.

“Those of us that work in this fields of service work, I want to encourage people to find their passion, their spark, what they find engaging about supporting other people and connecting with community, because I think we all have a desire for community and community service work is a great way to connect with other folks,” Herbst said.

Throughout the years community service has helped bring different cultures together on Guilford’s campus and has helped build meaningful experiences through leadership and engaged learning. Furthermore, community service has allowed Guilford to carry on its Quaker values, giving students and faculty a chance to make a positive impact.