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Bonner Office Community Service

Beyond the Classroom: The Value of Engaging in Community Service

It’s no secret that our society has historically marginalized Black women. And social justice movements and community service haven’t been left out of this marginalization. That is why it is so important for young, Black students to engage in community service. This allows us to change the narrative and create a lasting impact. By engaging in community service Black women will do more than just gain experience (although that is beneficial too), they will break down barriers and lift one another up. In this article, we explore the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of engaging in community service.

The Impact of Community Service on Personal Growth

Spelman Urban Gardening ProgramAs Shirley Chisholm, the first Black congresswoman, said, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” When we pay this “rent” we get something in return – we encounter diverse perspectives and experiences. When we participate in community service, we better understand those around us and their unique challenges, cultivating a growing sense of interconnectedness in a world where division seems to abound.

"Community service is not just something you do; it's a way of life. It's about standing together, supporting one another, and lifting each other up." Tarana Burke, activist and founder of the Me Too movement.

The ‘way of life’ of community service provides meaning and purpose. When you give back, you make a powerful and positive contribution. This provides immense value to your sense of self and your place in the world. Additionally, you gain interpersonal skills that help you grow as a person. Skills such as active listening, effective communication and conflict resolution are core to community service – and are skills that are few and far between in our society. When you engage in community service and work alongside others with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, you learn to navigate these complexities and work together to achieve a common goal.

Acts as a Catalyst for Social Change

Our society feels broken in many ways. There are thousands with unmet needs. Community service provides an opportunity to address these unmet needs. Whether you’re providing food at a homeless shelter, reading to groups of children in low income areas, or building shared community spaces, you are on the frontline of creating positive change. You become a voice for the voiceless, advocating for other marginalized groups. You play a role in working to eliminate these disparities and create a more inclusive (and more equitable) society. After all, as Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code said, “anytime you get more than a couple of Black women together, you're creating this powerful mechanism for change.”

Benefits the Soul and the Mind

Spelman Urgan Gardening Program
Statistics have shown volunteering and community service improves overall health outcomes, reduces stress, and improves mental well-being. In fact, helping others actually produces “feel-good” hormones such as endorphins and oxytocin! Engaging in community service provides a sense of community and belonging, which can fight feelings of loneliness and isolation that Black people are more likely to experience. You could even say the hope generated by community service is contagious - like Michelle Obama said: “ You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

Develops Skills and Contributes to Professional Growth

Not only does community service improve mental well-being, it provides opportunities for professional growth. When you volunteer and participate in community engagements, you develop leadership and problem-solving skills that are critical in the workplace. Plus, you learn how to be more adaptable to constantly changing needs. And, unlike traditional learning environments (although those are critical in their own right), volunteering provides hands-on experience and practical knowledge. Many community service engagements host events or receive grants and other topics that will appear in a professional setting. This gives you confidence – and transferable skills. Community service and academics go hand-in-hand. When you engage in community service, you bring the classroom into the real world. When you bring the theory into practice, you take the concepts you learned in the classroom and can foster an even deeper understanding of them when seen in practice.

Strengthens Black Communities and Reduces Disparities

Bonner Service ScholarsFor Black women, there are a number of community service initiatives that focus on the needs of our community. When we invest in our own communities, we contribute to our collective progress, helping to build one another up. As Serena Williams said, “The success of every woman should be an inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you're courageous, be strong, be extremely kind, and above all, be humble.” So go out there, be humble, and bring your best self when you engage in community service. Our community – and the world – are depending on it.

Opportunities to Serve the Spelman Community

Because believe community service is so critical to the individual, but also the world as a whole, Spelman offers a number of opportunities to serve.

  • Bonner Scholars Program. The Bonner Scholars Program is designed to increase the access of low-income students to a quality college education while also transforming students, communities and campuses through service. Students can apply to work in a cohort of fellow Bonner scholars. They receive leadership training while working on projects in the neighborhood or abroad. Students become, in effect, part of a service-learning community designed to strengthen human communities, meet individual and social needs, promote intercultural literacy and enhance their development as leaders, citizens and neighbors.
  • Civic Scholar Programs. A select number of entering students are invited to become Service Scholars. Service Scholars have demonstrated a commitment to service and leadership. Service Scholars participate in leadership training and will participate in unique service-learning opportunities.
  • Bonner Office of Civic Engagement (Spelman Serves). The Bonner Office of Civic Engagement works with students, faculty, staff, community partners, and alumnae to facilitate opportunities to serve the community and address the most pressing challenges. Spelman Serves is the group that facilitates community service opportunities and offerings.