Twelve Bonners Named 2019-20 Newman Civic Fellows

The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports community-committed students who are changemakers and public problem-solvers at Campus Compact member institutions. Fellows are nominated by their president or chancellor on the basis of their potential for public leadership.

Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides students with training and resources that nurture their assets and passions and help them develop strategies for social change. The yearlong program, named for Campus Compact founder Frank Newman, includes virtual learning opportunities and networking as part of a national network of engaged student leaders and an optional in-person convening.

Campus Compact views the Newman Civic Fellowship as a core component of our strategy to build a national network of engaged student leaders who can support one another in building transformational partnerships between campuses and communities.

Below we have included the personal statement from each of the twelve Bonners who are part of the 2019-20 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows. Click on their names to read the nomination statement from their college or university president.

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Shyeila "Shy" Bowers, Berea College

Double major: Elementary Education; Peace and Social Justice: Class of 2020

“For much of my existence, I've resided in communities often deficient in resources, but rich with compassion. Volunteerism and adopting a life of selfless service were values instilled in me at a young age, and I recall volunteering; however, I realized my efforts were acute, temporary solutions to the systemic issues that plagued my community and others across the globe. So, I began seeking methods for transformative action. At Berea College, I was selected as a Bonner Scholar, a service and leadership program empowering students to become solution-seekers. To further enhance my capacities as an agent of social change, I sought out a diversity and inclusion organization, the Diversity Peer Education Team (DPET). I am now the student coordinator for DPET, and we cultivate a safe space for individuals to engage in critical dialogue. Our T.R.U.T.H. (True Racial Understanding through Honest) Talk series is not aimed at providing concrete solutions for issues in the world, but at promoting ongoing discussion among students, faculty, staff, and community members. As I grow and mature as a pre-service teacher and practitioner of transformative change, I hope to continue building a repository of techniques that will aid in establishing a foundation for understanding.”


Idalmis Lopez, Brown University

Health and Human Biology: Class of 2021

“As a college student accessing knowledge and higher education, I want to extend my privilege to those who find themselves voiceless in environments that should be of equal access to all. Thus, I joined Partnership for Adult Learning (PAL), a Swearer Center for Public Service student group committed to the inclusion and empowerment of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). Through PAL, Brown students serve as a support network to help adults with IDDs gain agency in managing their lives. As a leader for PAL, I create workshops for other student volunteers, restructure tutoring curricula, and organize social events on campus that develop meaningful connections with PAL learners - all to empower adults with IDDs who are often devoid of independence and choice. Supporting adults with IDDs has served as my introduction into a different world, and although I have limited knowledge of the daily challenges our learners endure, I have gained awareness on the urgent need for change. I am building a legislative engagement group in which members of our community with IDDs, alongside Brown students, will be at the forefront of legislative actions concerning equitable access so that together we may bring about long-lasting, systemic change.”


Katherine Diaz Garcia, Centre College

Sociology: Class of 2021

“I have always been passionate about immigrant rights. My sophomore year of high school I joined the youth activism chapter of the Tennessee Immigrant Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) in hopes of advocating for the Tuition Equality bill which would grant undocumented students in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities in Tennessee. As a DACA recipient, I have participated in United We Dream's D.C based actions demanding a clean Dream Act for a permanent solution and pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth. Once at Centre I began working with Centro Latino, a local Danville immigrant organization, aiding the immigrant community in accessing healthcare programs. Noting the need for free and accessible English lessons in the community, I began teaching introductory English lessons in spring 2018. I hope to continue them this spring. On campus, alongside some of my peers, I founded and developed the first ever Centre UndocuPeers training focused on detailing undocumented student needs to students, faculty and staff.”


Jake Matthews, High Point University

Political Science/Non-Profit Leadership and Civic Responsibility and Social Innovation: Class of 2021

”Growing up in rural Western North Carolina, the concept of volunteering and community service has been a prevalent part of my life. Throughout my time as a public-school student, I participated in service oriented organizations such as National Honor Society, Interact, the student government association, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I decided to continue my service at High Point University where the Bonner Leader Program has helped me garner a better understanding of the importance of service and servant leadership. Through the Bonner Leader Program, I am directly working towards alleviating food insecurity at West End Ministries, a local nonprofit food pantry. Outside of Bonner, I am an active member in the High Point University community, and the greater High Point community. On campus, I hold leadership positions in the university’s College Republicans chapter and the High Point University Panthers for Israel chapter. I am also a peer mentor for incoming first year students, a Leadership Fellow, and a member of the Service Learning Committee where I and one other student serve alongside faculty in the department as they review proposed service learning courses. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my friends, attending church at Mercy Hill, and parenting my new puppy Reagan!”


Kennedy Selbe, Lindsey Wilson College

History / Women's and Gender Studies: Class of 2020

“I first became interested in analyzing and studying gender and sexuality when I was in high school and I realized I had never been taught anything about women in my history classes, how gender is viewed and interpreted in today's society, or even a basic sexual health class. When I got to college, I learned that I could study these areas that had been glazed over in my high school education. In my Gender and Women's Studies courses, I learn about how the patriarchal norms that shape society affect women as well as men, and how we as students can educate others and combat these norms. I participate in the Gender and Women's Studies Conference every year by presenting different topics relating to feminist perspectives and presenting solutions to problems that our society faces because of the stereotypes we place on men and women. I also lead open dialogues on campus in regards to current issues so that my fellow students can practice giving voice to their opinions while respectfully listening to the opinions of others. In the future, I hope to become a political advocate for issues relating to gender in public education as well as higher education.”


Meghan Oxford, Rollins College

International Relations and Spanish: Class of 2020

“Introduced to service and communities experiencing absolute poverty during my junior year of high school while living in the capital of Perú, I have quickly grown from empathetic to passionate about social justice work. Coming back to Central Florida for college, I jumped into service as a Bonner Leader at Rollins College, a philanthropic organization focused on fostering the abilities of students who wish to pursue social justice work through service. This program has nurtured my leadership and has led me to understand and address social issues alongside community members. Solidifying a passion for political change particularly for the immigrant and LGBTQ+ communities and recognizing the intersections of policy and social justice, I dove into political involvement. As the president and founder of the Rollins College Democrats, I have made it a point to collaborate with student organizations from across our campus and community to foster understanding and collective action. In the future, I plan to utilize these experiences and passions to pursue a career in addressing social issues through political advocacy.”

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Michael Syverud, Saint John’s University

Political Science: Class of 2020

“I have been engaged in the community almost my entire life. As a child, I was exposed to people of all different backgrounds, something that I attribute to my interest in civic engagement to this day. I personally believe that every person in this country should have the same opportunities to succeed, but also recognize that there are limits on those opportunities for many people. As an agent of change, I hope to make the opportunity gap for people much smaller. I am passionate about helping children realize their full potential, as childhood is the biggest platform to success later in life. I am also passionate about helping those with mental and physical disabilities, as they are often overlooked in our society. People with disabilities have just as much to contribute as someone without a disability, and I am passionate about helping them find their abilities. A future career in government is another opportunity to make change, but it is a career that requires a whole-world view. Working with children and people with disabilities provides me with this view and prepares me for a successful future as a change maker.”


Paige Richards, Stockton University

Biology/ Pre-Professional Studies: Class of 2021

“Throughout my college career, thus far, I have made it my mission to find the ideal balance among academic achievement, community engagement, and self-awareness. Having been recently elected the Assistant Director of the Honors Program, I plan to use all aspects, from my amiable interpersonal skills to my position, as a Bonner Leader, in the Office of Service-Learning, to build a bridge amongst the different walks of life. Ultimately, showcasing to fellow students how their passions for service and community engagement can be linked back to moving forward in their major in addition to building relationships along the way.

“Aside from being a full-time student, one can easily spot me anywhere at the university for I work two part-time jobs on campus, hold positions on two research projects and am involved in multiple societies and organizations on campus, such as the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society and The National Society of Leadership and Success. My approach on the world may be fast-paced, nevertheless, I truly feel as if each aspect of my involvement allows me to live a rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle in which I can continue to challenge my limits and satiate my ever-growing curiosity.”


Lina Tori Jan, University of Richmond

Leadership Studies and Political Science: Class of 2020

“My first exposure to the root causes of social issues was in Afghanistan, where I grew up in the midst of war. The Taliban stripped many people of their right to participate in society, confining one of the fundamental values a person can have. They shut down schools, burnt books, falsely accused and imprisoned individuals, and prohibited women and minority groups from public appearance. This experience ignited the desire to transcend social boundaries and fight for my right to education while advocating for the rights of others through community service.

“In Afghanistan, I volunteered at a literacy class where I taught women the basics of reading and writing in Dari. As a Bonner Scholar at the University of Richmond, I taught an ESL and a Mommy-and-Me class for refugees and immigrants at the International Rescue Committee. My current internship with the Department of Restoration of Rights focuses on restoring rights to convicted felons. When an individual restores their right to vote, they have an opportunity to create a new life by regaining a power they had lost: their voice.

“Working with different marginalized groups has taught me the importance of being proactive in addressing issues related to human rights.”


Malithi DeSilva, Wagner College

Medical Anthropology: Class of 2020

“Through my involvement in programs like PRPLA and Bonner I have come to understand the true differences between providing a community service and being civically engaged. I have volunteered with Make the Road NY, El Centro del Immigrante, Generation Citizenship, Healthy Neighborhoods, and my favorite Peer Health Exchange. With my involvement in these programs I was able able to view, learn, and understand differing experiences from differing lenses. This perspective changes to the "for" the community to "with" the community. And that shift is the difference between short-term and long-term solutions of social issues. Through my civic interactions with various communities I understand that many aspects of our society influence our health, and the lack of knowledge serves as the starting point down an unhealthy lifestyle. With Peer Health Exchange I am able to work on eradicating just that. Pipelining health knowledge through the education and conversations with high school students in low-income communities works towards equipping them with the comprehensive health knowledge they lack.”


Ricki Boateng, Widener University

Nursing: Class of 2021

“Growing up in a single parent, immigrant household, I always thought about what I could do to mitigate the effects of poverty and build supportive health environments. As a child living with sickle cell disease, I spent much time in hospitals and was wrapped up in supportive relationships with my nurses. It inspired me to become a nurse and change maker.

“I want to grow up and become a missionary in Ghana, bringing with me a toolkit of leadership, public policy and health care expertise. I want to work with people with genetic disorders, like me and reverse the effects of malnutrition, bad water sources and more. In my time at the Family and Community Service of Delaware County, I serve three hundred hours of community service advocating for those with HIV/AIDS. While I began in the office as a donor database coordinator, I have grown my expertise to include fundraising and testing for HIV/AIDS in non-clinical settings. I hope to expand services through the creation and implementation of a new mobile testing van in order to reach out to more communities.

“I look forward to continuing to integrate my academic pursuits with lifelong community change.”


Sandra López, Wofford College

Finance: Class of 2021

“I became interested in the immigration process at a young age as I watched both my parents become citizens of the United States. As I grew older I began to take more interest in the lives of undocumented immigrants as some of them were my classmates and family friends. I observed how the world treated immigrants as a group and knew something had to change for their contributions to be valued. I strongly believe it is my civic duty to work to remove barriers that keep the Latinx community from fully participating in American life.

“To that end, I volunteer within the community as a tutor, translator, mentor, and tax return preparer; and advocate with elected officials. I have also served as part of a research team that gathered and analyzed phenomenological data to strengthen the connection between Latinx residents and the city of Spartanburg. On campus, I have participated in panels and organizations where I express my concerns for immigrants' rights and well-being, and inspire other students to become involved. I will continue to use my knowledge, strengths, and energy to lead us toward a more equitable society - for the Latinx community, all immigrants, and all Americans.”