Sewanee team and community partners attend Bonner High Impact Initiative


A team of eight University of the South faculty, students and administrators, along with community partners, attended the Bonner High Impact Initiative at Siena College in N.Y. from July 8 to 11.

The Bonner High Impact Initiative is sponsored by the Bonner Foundation, which supports community engagement service learning at the 71 campuses that are part of its network. The team from Sewanee, which has a Bonner Leaders Program, worked during the institute to develop relationships with community partners.

The participating community partners are the Grundy County Health Council, which is developing an after-school physical activity and nutrition education program in the Grundy County elementary schools; and MountainTOP, the Cumberland Plateau outreach project that has its central office and one of its camps in Altamont, Tenn. Both of these emerging partnerships have goals of offering opportunities for Sewanee students to discover and become engaged in local communities, while at the same time building their organizational capacities to better serve their communities.

The immediate outcome of the institute is a specific plan to have some freshmen in Sewanee’s new first-year program work on service projects with both partners. The institute also offered the university and its partners an introduction to a community engagement framework for long-term planning for sustainable, expanded forms of cooperation based on community needs.

Tonya Garner, public health educator for the Grundy County Health Department, will mentor the Sewanee students working with her in the after-school program. Stephanie Carr, board member of MountainTOP and eighth-grade literacy teacher and 2012 Teacher of the Year at Wright Middle School in Nashville, will offer leadership and guidance in facilitating long-term planning conversations between Sewanee and the executive staff at MountainTOP.

“Sewanee is impressed by the work of the Grundy County Health Council and MountainTOP. We are looking forward to strong and long-term partnerships with these two organizations,” said Jim Peterman, director of Sewanee’s Bonner Leaders Program and director of Community Engaged Learning, the academic community engagement program.

The team is now considering introducing its innovative approach to the first-year experience during the annual conference for the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

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