Even though Aleah Qureshi graduates from Wofford College in May, she's pleased to be extending her community-based learning through the summer as an intern with the Bonner Foundation of Princeton, N.J. After the summer experience, Qureshi, an environmental studies and Spanish major from Sanford, Fla., will pursue a Master of Science degree in planning at Florida State University.
"I wanted to give back to Bonner. They've given me so much. … The scholarship has allowed me to further my academic career, but I've also grown professionally and personally," says Qureshi, who held the service-based scholarship for three years while at Wofford. "I knew this would be a great opportunity to learn more about the program as a whole and to return the help I've received."
Bonner Scholars volunteer at least 10 hours each week during the academic year and 280 hours over each of at least two summers in return for tuition assistance. Qureshi has volunteered with the Spartanburg Science Center and the Northside Development Group (NDG). Qureshi's recent work with the Northside includes research on tax policies, community land trusts and different land models in order to keep housing affordable for residents.
She begins the internship with the Bonner Foundation on May 24 and will work until Aug. 3. In the position she will receive a stipend to cover housing, transportation and personal expenses. She joins four other interns from across the nation.
"My specific role at the Foundation will involve research into capstone projects and plans for their implementation," she says. "During the interview process, my experience in doing a capstone as a Wofford Bonner really stood out and made me a more competitive applicant."
Qureshi's capstone addressed food security issues in the Northside community, combining both her Bonner service and her academic studies. The Hub City Farmer's Market is located directly across the street from subsidized housing in the Northside, but Qureshi found that residents were not using the resource.
"From my own experiences, I know that farmer's markets can be expensive, so I wanted to gauge usage of and perceptions toward different food vendors in the community," she says. "It was important to me that my capstone include community input."
According to Dr. Ramon Galinanes, director of the Bonner Scholars Program at Wofford, requiring capstones is a new initiative of the Wofford Bonner Program. "The capstones allow our scholars to better articulate their experiences volunteering and gives them a competitive edge for jobs and further educational opportunities."
Through her internship with the Bonner Foundation, Qureshi will be doing research and working with Bonner campuses across the nation to help strategically plan the implementation of capstone requirements similar to those at Wofford.
The Bonner Scholars Program provides deserving students with financial access while equipping them with the opportunities, resources and skills to serve humanity. The program is available at more than 65 campuses nationwide. It began in 1990 through the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation at Berea College in Kentucky.
By Kelsey Aylor, Class of 2018