by Cori Hilsgen
Twenty-seven students from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University Bonner Program helped clean the Kennedy Community School prairie area Aug. 26.
The service project was part of this year’s Bonner orientation held Aug. 25-26.
Kennedy Principal Laurie Putnam said St. Cloud School District Volunteer Coordinator Sonia Dickrell contacted her to see if Kennedy would host the Bonner service hours this year.
“One of our commitments this year is to re-energize our students, family and staff around the ‘green’-ness of Kennedy and to infuse the teaching and learning at Kennedy with environmental education and STEM,” Putnam said. “As part of this initiative, we are restoring the walking paths through our prairie since many teachers like to use these spaces as outdoor classrooms.”
The large Kennedy prairie area includes three walking paths that branch off from the main loop. The paths needed maintenance work and the Bonner Program college students worked hard to restore the outdoor classroom, which is used for science, social studies and language arts.
Tim Radunz, husband of fourth-grade-teacher Mary Radunz, led the maintenance project. He is a full-time volunteer at Kennedy and, with extensive prairie plant knowledge, could ensure correct plants were pulled.
Several students from the Bonner Program commented on the project:
“Kids today often stay inside on their iPads and other devices,” said Kevin Curwick, junior. “It’s a great feeling to know we are contributing to getting them outside and engaged in the community.”
“It’s awesome to know the kids at Kennedy will see our work,” said Pete Johnson, first year. “Hopefully, it will encourage them to get involved in the community as well.”
“I know the work we did today is going to make a lot of kids very happy,” sophomore Maggie Wothe said.
“Taking care of the earth is a form of social justice a lot of people don’t think about,” senior Melissa Goranowski said.
Adia Zeman, who oversees the Bonner and Service-Learning programs, said the Bonner Program is a joint program for CSB and SJU and is one of the programs in the Office of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement. This office is responsible for programs that engage students in learning in the area, including the Bonner, service-learning, academic internships, undergraduate research, the Jackson Fellowship and the community-kitchen program.
The Bonner program accepts 10 college students from each grade, each year, for a total of 40 students. Students are introduced to working and serving during orientation.
Zeman said Bonner students also participate in the America Reads and Kidstop programs at Kennedy.
According to the college website, the Bonner Program began at CSB/SJU in 2008. Its mission is to transform the lives of students and members, the life of their campuses, the areas in which they live, and the world through service and leadership.
Bonner participants commit to a 10- to 12-hour/week work award at a local site and also participate in training and reflection activities sponsored by their campuses, area partners and the Bonner Foundation. Students commit to social justice, civic engagement, spiritual exploration, diversity, international perspective and area building. They also complete a senior project.
Bonner participants complete off-campus work-study awards at more than 15 locations, completing more than 1,000 service hours yearly. They also receive a $2,500 scholarship, renewable for each year the student remains in the program. Through partnerships, students help meet basic needs of nutrition and education.
More than 85 colleges and universities in more than 22 states have a Bonner Program on their campuses.
Putnum said she is grateful to be part of such a welcoming area.
“I feel inspired by our dedicated staff and involved community and know we are going to work together to positively impact student learning and achievement,” Putnam said.
Kennedy has almost 800 students enrolled pre-K through eighth grade this year.