Montclair State Hosts State-wide Bonner Leader Program Summit

Two-day conference focuses on issues facing New Jersey and how to address them through service

Photo: Amy Zavadil

(From the left) Montclair State Bonner Leaders Jennifer Gross, Caitlin Darragh, Frank Quinones, and Emerald Rozmester pose with NJSOC graduate assistant Joe Donnelley by Lake Wapalanne on the NJSOC site in Branchville, New Jersey.

Bringing together 100 student leaders from seven university and college campuses around New Jersey, Montclair State University’s New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) and the University's Bonner AmeriCorps program hosted The Bonner Foundation's New Jersey Bonner Leader Program Summit on October 30 and 31, 2009 at the NJSOC facility in Branchville. The two-day conference, which included an overnight stay at the NJSOC’s campground, consisted of workshops and training sessions focusing on issues facing New Jersey and how Bonner Leaders are addressing these issues through service.

The Montclair State Bonner Leader students presented details of the planning and collaboration that is being undertaken to launch the University’s first Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week, to be held on campus from November 9 through November 14, 2009. They also learned from other New Jersey schools about related hunger and homelessness efforts being undertaken by college students throughout the state.

In one of the sessions, Bill Thomas, director of the NJSOC, led the group in a discussion of the importance of protecting New Jersey’s watershed properties and the related challenges. The group then engaged in on-site service, working together with Thomas and his graduate students, Joe Donnelly and Kristen Kwasek, to remove milfoil, an invasive plant species that is threatening the ecostructure of the lake. Some students commented on how they were not aware of how the forest areas of New Jersey benefit other areas by providing fresh water. The overnight experience was also new to many students who have not spent time in the wilderness before.

The service project also included instruction on student-led reflection to enhance the learning and impact of service. “ Our hope for the weekend was that students from all seven [Bonner] schools in New Jersey felt connected, made friendships, and learned more about each other's programs,” stated Becky Grinstead of the Bonner Foundation. “We would like to develop sustained dialogue between our campuses with the end goal of impacting New Jersey on a statewide level, addressing issues like hunger, poverty, and the environment from every county in the state.”

Bryan Murdock, Research Academy for University Learning, praised the event as an opportunity for the Montclair State University Bonner Leaders to connect with other Bonners from throughout the state to share information and inspiration. In addition, it was a great opportunity to share the Montclair State resources available through the New Jersey School of Conservation.

See more photos from the service project.