Aly Bonilla ’22 was one of five students from across the U.S. chosen by the Bonner Foundation to participate in its 2020 National Summer Internship Program. Bonilla, an English major from Norwalk, Connecticut, also is only the second University of Lynchburg Bonner Leader ever to be selected for the internship.
The Bonner Leader Program connects students who are interested in community service, leadership, and social justice with opportunities to serve. Lynchburg’s program is one of more than 65 at colleges and universities across the country.
During the 11-week, paid internship, which will be completed online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bonilla and the other interns will work on various Bonner Foundation initiatives, among them the 2020 Virtual Summer Leadership Institute, to be held online June 3 to 6.
“I think I’ll get a lot of mentorship and training from the Bonner Foundation staff,” Bonilla said. “I also anticipate having to work outside of my comfort zone to implement new things that the foundation may want to try out — i.e., making cold calls to graduate school partners, creating podcasts, speaking at national meetings.”
During the academic year, Bonilla volunteers at Lynchburg Grows, a local urban farm that provides fresh produce to the community and jobs for individuals with disabilities. On campus, she’s the accountability team supervisor for the Bonner Leader program and has shown leadership in other areas.
“Aly is an amazing young lady who has had to overcome many obstacles and [has] risen as an incredible and effective leader,” Cindy Ferguson, director of Lynchburg’s Bonner Leader Program, said. “She has a positive attitude and is willing to learn and grow from every situation and position where she serves.
“Aly is deeply passionate about poverty, social justice, and inclusion. It was Aly’s idea for our First-year Bonner Pilgrimage to be to Birmingham, Alabama, this past January. She played an integral role in planning the trip as well.”
The Birmingham trip included, among other things, visits to the Civil Rights Museum, Social Justice Memorial, Legacy Museum, and 16th Street Baptist Church, a historically black congregation that was bombed by white supremacists in 1963.
This isn’t the first summer Bonilla will spend serving others. Last year, she worked at the Prevention Council of Roanoke County, Virginia, through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty, an organization that combines education and community service.
At the Prevention Council she did office work, presentations, and community outreach, and drafted a bill for the Virginia House of Delegates.
Bonilla, a secondary education minor, said her goal is to teach English at schools in low-income communities and “address disparities in our education system and help foster future leadership.”
She added that this summer’s internship will help her get even closer to that goal. “I believe the foundation’s central goal of providing diverse, predominantly low-income students the ‘access to education and opportunity to serve’ is right on par with that, and being able to work firsthand in an environment where this is a priority will certainly give me the tools I need moving forward.”