Bonners Community Fair connects Allegheny College to Meadville community

Bonner Program Coordinators held a Community Partner Fair last Thursday in the Campus Center in order to spread awareness about the many volunteer, work-study and internship opportunities available to Allegheny students.

The intention for the fair was to inform students, not only those in the Service Leadership Program, about community programs they can become involved in.

“This fair is to expose Allegheny students to all the community partners that we have,” said Program Coordinator Sarah Young. “We have off-campus sites like (Fairview/Fairmont Apartments), (Family & Community Christian Association), Special Olympics, the MLK Program, and then we have on-campus sites like Food Recovery and Black Diamond.”

At the fair, several local community organizations had representatives with a wide array of information pamphlets, merchandise and displays of what their program do in the community.

“Whether it’s student employment, student internships, student volunteering — students can do service within leadership programs like and spend time at a site that interests them,” Colin Hurley, associate dean and director of community engagement, said. “It meets both the students’ and organizations’ needs.”

Present organizations had booths that represented causes from wildlife preservation to Special Olympics to social justice causes. Arc of Crawford County and Tamarack were two of the many booths that gained a lot of attention from prospective student volunteers.

“We work with people with developmental and intellectual disabilities,” said ARC representative Aniya Harper, ’26. “So as a volunteer, the student will be facilitating arts and crafts or different things that get these people to interact with the community around them or (make) them comfortable. And sometimes the student will be responsible for teaching certain things such as basic financial skills and things of that nature.”

Tamarack is an organization that nurses and helps wounded animals such as birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. According to Jess Schonbert, ’16, representative for Tamarack and one of the “bird doctors,” their focus is raptors.

“Our Allegheny students and any of our on-site volunteers typically are coming out to do daily animal care support,” Schonbert said. “Part of that is prepping diets and cleaning, which is something we always need. We train them on different animal handling skills, so things like actually picking up raptors and learning medical techniques and building animal care skills. It depends on the student and their comfort level.”

Some Meadville programs at the fair were not only in search of volunteers, but also wanted to build their relationship with Allegheny College and make students aware of the fun activities available. For instance, the Meadville Public Library offered not only work opportunities, but library membership cards, among other merchandise.

“With the Meadville Public Library, we are aiming to be more engaged with the community,” said Head Librarian Gabby Miller. “I’m intentionally connecting with different parts. We’re trying to bring a potential book club to the college, which is so fun, and we’re bringing different volunteers in to do activities. We have so many things and we just want people to be really excited about the library.”

Community fairs have occurred in the past, although COVID-19 put the tradition on hold until now. Sometimes, these programs and activities have led to a lifelong career and passion. Schonbert, for example, became acquainted with Tamarack through Allegheny College.

“I actually was an Allegheny student from 2012 to 2016, and that’s where I initially got to know Tamarack,” Schonbert said. “I was a work-study student, but I worked alongside a lot of s, too, and was there the entire time I was a student here. I really discovered my love of wildlife.”

The programs available are tailored to the student body’s eclectic interests, but the benefits of these programs extend farther than just Allegheny students.

“I think this is kind of like a trifecta,” Hurley said. “There’re multiple needs being met. One is community building. We’re getting a chance for our community partners, many of whom work with us through (the) Service Leader Program and others, to become more well-known to Allegheny students. We’re getting a chance to have face time with students and staff.”

Even for the programs that require clearances or reimbursements, the office of student engagement and financial aid helps students, according to Hurley. With students who want to work with youth long-term, for instance, there are clearance requirements that need to be met in order to work with some organizations such as Family and Community Christian Association, but the school “builds a path,” for them to reach those requirements, according to Hurley.

“We have partners here recruiting for different things,” Hurley said. “We’re building that relationship within the community, something that is sometimes hard to do over email and phone. Community is a big part of a person’s identity, which is why this community fair is important.”