Thanks to their summer internships, two of Lynchburg’s Bonner Leader students have a better understanding of poverty and how to help people out of it.
For eight weeks, Marissa Bucklew ’18 worked with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and its many community gardens, while Elise Togbe ’18 spent her summer in Louisville, teaching refugees and immigrants at Americana Community Center. Both internships were sponsored by the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty.
The internships connected well with the mission of University of Lynchburg’s Bonner Leader Program, in which students spend two or three years working in the community on issues like education, hunger, homelessness, or sustainability. “This is an extension of what Bonner is about, understanding and becoming more involved in poverty,” Anne Gibbons, director of LC’s Bonner Leader Program. “SHECP has sent interns all over the country to organizations and nonprofits, working to address poverty.”
The Shepherd consortium programs combine education and community service, allowing students to serve in areas that interest them and coincide with their educational or professional goals. For Marissa, who volunteers locally at the urban farm Lynchburg Grows, the internship also gave her the opportunity to put a face to poverty.
Before spending the summer in Atlanta, she said most of what she knew about poverty came from textbooks, theories and statistics. “Without seeing this community face to face, it was easy to assume that inaction was a probable reason for the circumstances,” said Marissa, a human resources management major.
“But after listening and learning, I realize this structure is one that locks you in. Only by experience can I truly learn about the obstacles homelessness and poverty leave in a person’s life. With this opportunity, I’ve gained the insight that will teach me to step into another perspective before passing judgment.”
Elise, a French and international relations major, volunteers locally at Park View Community Mission, a faith-based initiative that serves needy families. She said the internship taught her that running a nonprofit is a lot harder than it looks.
“My perspective on nonprofits and all it takes to manage one has really changed,” she said. “Now that I have had the experience of working ‘backstage’ at Americana I now know how extremely difficult it is to manage a nonprofit.”
“There’s so much I’ve witnessed while working at Americana that I can honestly relate back to everything I’ve learned in Bonner thus far. I’m confident my experience … will definitely transition to my work at Park View Community Mission in my senior year,” Elise said.
Marissa also will take lessons learned this summer into her senior year at LC. “I will take this experience with me when thinking of the different ways to involve my service in these communities,” she said.
“I hope to contribute to the discussions on behalf of this community and shed light on the reality of these circumstances and remove the stigmas of the situation.”