Students in UH Hilo Bonner leadership program honored for their work in the community; seniors present capstone projects

The UH Hilo Bonner Program is part of a national network with the mission to help develop student leaders who will have a positive impact on their communities.

Group photo, outside with lava wall in background. The two graduating students wear lei.
Group photo of students representing UH Hilo Bonner cohorts. Front row from left, Hayden Niles, Tyler Dela Cruz, Misty Cruden, Raven Brazee, and Annelise Hogan. Back from left, Lana Lowery, Shanai Koli, Amber Dahl, Devin Brown, Carley Atkins, Aralyn Hacker, Leiya Torrano, and Niko Casimiro. The two seniors who finished the Bonner Program this spring are wearing lei. (Photo: Center for Community Engagement/UH Hilo)

By Susan Enright.

A student support program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo that coordinates paid positions for students in local organizations held a celebratory event Sunday, May 5. All participants in the UH Hilo Bonner Program were honored for their hard work and two seniors presented their capstone projects at the 3rd Celebration of Learning for UH Hilo Bonner Student Leaders.

The UH Hilo Bonner Program is part of a national network whose mission is to help develop student leaders who will have a positive impact on their communities. The Hilo program was launched three years ago by the university’s Center for Community Engagement. Through paid employment with community organizations, the students, who are called Bonner Leaders, acquire real-world skills that help build self-esteem and confidence as they tackle their academic studies to prepare for meaningful careers.

Julie Mowrer pictured.
Julie Mowrer

Julie Mowrer, acting director of the Center for Community Engagement, says the Sunday event was an opportunity for friends and family to hear from the Bonner Leaders about their experiences.

“We celebrate their more than 2,000 hours spent this year engaging with the local community, preparing for and reflecting on those experiences,” says Mowrer. “In addition, we honor the community members, campus members, donors, family and friends who make this program possible.”

Each Bonner Leader commits to a paid position of eight to 10 hours per week that includes leadership training and on-site work with community organizations. The student leaders are committed to the program for their four years of study at the university.

A mix of family, friends, community partners, faculty and campus administrators were in attendance at the event to celebrate “The Bonners” and their work in the community.

The four sit at a table working looking at papers on the table.
Chancellor Irwin at far left, sits with two Bonner Leaders Misty Cruden and Amber Dahl with parent Maria Cruden at the 3rd Celebration of Learning for UH Hilo Bonner Student Leaders, May 5, 2024. (Photo: Center for Community Engagement/UH Hilo)

Capstone Presentations

At the celebration, two Bonner Leaders presented their senior capstones, ultimately wrapping up their Bonner experience.

Carley with microphone, wearing lei and a jeans jacket.
Carley Atkins delivers her capstone project at the Bonner event, May 5. (CCE/UH Hilo)

Carley Atkins

Capstone project: “Understanding and empowering our youth and community through Hale Lako.”

“My capstone project is inspired by my passion for education, equity, and engagement within our local youth and community,” says Atkins, who received her bachelor of arts in communication at Commencement on May 11.

Hale Lako is UH Hilo’s student supply resource providing non-perishable food, school supplies, clothes, and personal hygiene items such as soap and laundry detergent. The items are donated by faculty, staff, students, and the local community.

“My Bonner capstone project focuses on addressing, understanding, and providing accessibility, equity, and awareness of basic student needs within our UH Hilo campus and community by strengthening Hale Lako social media platforms and communications strategies,” says Atkins.

Devin with microphone. He's wearing a lei and has a red hibiscus behind his ear.
Devin Brown delivers his capstone project at the Bonner event, May 5. (CCE/UH Hilo)

Devin Brown

Capstone project: “Community Dish Lending Library.”

“[My project focuses on] the need for reusable tableware systems due to the limited space island communities have,” says Brown, who is earning a bachelor of arts in geography with a minor in geology. He recently decided to also earn a certificate in planning, so although he is a senior, he will be at UH Hilo for one more year.

“The dish lending library is a reusable tableware system that allows for community members to borrow tableware for events and return them at no cost rather than spending money on disposable tableware that will enter our waste stream,” Brown explains.

To learn more about Brown’s capstone project, see story and video interview: UH Hilo geography major Devin Brown interns at Zero Waste Hawaiʻi.

Devin Brown, Jennifer Navarro, and Tall Chief Comet pose for photo within a large "picture frame" with the words #BONNER.
Devin Brown (center) with his community mentors Tall Chief Comet (at left) and Jennifer Navarro (at right) from Zero Waste Hawaiʻi. (Photo: Center for Community Engagement/UH Hilo)

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Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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