The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement developed a remote summer cohort for Bonner Scholars who were unable to find internships because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Adrienne Piazza, the director of the Bonner Scholars Program.
The cohort programming started on June 1 and will run until the end of July, which is the typical time frame of summer internships, Piazza said. During their time at Richmond, Bonner Scholars are required to spend two summers serving at nonprofit organizations, said Piazza.
When UR moved to remote learning because of COVID-19, Piazza said the CCE staff began to work with the national Corella & Bertram F. Bonner Foundation to make adaptations for summer requirements that would allow students to still have meaningful summer work.
The CCE staff reduced the hours required for the summer work because of decreased opportunities for work during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of working remotely, Piazza said. The staff also did more hands-on work than usual to help match students with internships by checking in with them and emailing information about summer opportunities, Piazza said.
Another option provided to students this summer was joining a summer cohort program, where they are paired with staff mentors who help guide their work, Piazza said. Within the summer cohort program, there are several different cohorts with groups of students working on a specific project.
Many of the summer cohort projects benefit the CCE's partners and faculty across campus, Piazza said. For one project, students are helping write discussion and facilitation guides for One Book, One Richmond, the campus-wide effort to read and discuss books on various social justice issues. Another project allows students to work for the Bonner Foundation's policy research initiative, Piazza said.
To ensure that students in the cohort develop the professional skills that they would normally get from internships, career-building skills sessions are held weekly, Piazza said. Sessions are planned either by CCE staff, campus partners or community leaders and are coordinated by a group of Bonner students working on the project, Piazza said.
Rising sophomore Dominique Pham joined the Bonner summer cohort qhen her original internship opportunity fell through. Pham is in the professional development cohort and does research to facilitate and create different workshops to help students transition into professional jobs, she said.
Although students are just starting their work for this summer, Pham said she was grateful for the opportunity to be in the summer cohort, especially because she had difficulty finding an internship as a rising sophomore.
“I think that it's really nice that I have the opportunity to work with [the Bonner Scholars] office because I know what I'm working for, and I'm also familiar and comfortable with the different faculty,” Pham said of working with the Bonner office this summer. Pham thought the skills she had been using would prove useful and transferable in the future, she said.
All 58 Bonner Scholars in need of a summer experience were able to find one, Piazza said. Of those scholars, about 50% are in the summer cohort, Piazza said.
Another 30% are working remotely with City of Richmond organizations they worked with during the academic year, Piazza said.
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“Because so many of our nonprofit organizations also had to make a pivot this summer ... it's been helpful for them to have a consistent person so they didn't have to train a new intern," Piazza said. "They could have someone who understood the organization.”
The other 20% of scholars were able to find internships on their own, whether in their hometowns or with national or international organizations, Piazza said.
Rising senior and Bonner Scholar Nicole Bialick said she had originally not planned to do an internship this summer. However, with her summer course moved online because of COVID-19, Bialick had time to work at an internship and complete her second summer-service requirement, she said.
Bialick found an organization called Ride Above Disability in Poway, California, that she was able to start working for online before it opens in person on June 15, she said. Ride Above Disability works with people who have mental and physical disabilities by offering individualized weekly horseback riding lessons, according to its website. Bialick said the opportunity was perfect for her because of her interest in occupational therapy.
Bialick also noted that the CCE had been helpful and supportive with the adjustments for the summer in various ways. She said she had found it easier going into her senior year to navigate what summer opportunities would be available and best suited to her.
“We've been growing with the program and the program's kind of grown with us," Bialick said, "And so we have learned a lot from talking with each other and talking with our Bonner advisers."
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