Community Engaged Learning (CEL) Days are those co-curricular service learning events that allow students to learn, serve and reflect on an issue together that they care about. These days are organized by Bonner Scholars and staff for students who are not in Freshman Seminar Program courses that have linked an academic learning objective to a community need.
On a typical CEL day, Bonner Scholars gather first year students from a residential floor to learn about the magnitude of their community issue (e.g. local hunger), hear why the College requires this type of experience (a mini lesson on democracy and citizenship), work on a meaningful service project, talk about what they learned from experience, and to see how they can stay involved if they have an interest in doing so.
Each year, CEL Days focus on a range of community issues including hunger, homelessness, education, the environment, developmental disabilities, youth development, housing, and much more. The vast majority of these take place at Bonner partner sites, nonprofit organizations that host Bonner Community Scholar Teams that work on critical community issues on a weekly basis. A sample of some of our favorite and annual CEL Days appears below.
Dr. Seuss Day
Over 50 TCNJ students travel to our K-8 partner school in Trenton (Hedgepeth-Williams) where they run Dr Seuss themed workshops that promote literacy and stress the importance of education. For example, in the “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” session TCNJ students read with their younger partners and encourage them to think about their goals. In “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket”, the K-8 students are asked to use their imagination and rhyming skills to come up with their own fictional characters.
East Trenton Collaborative Days
Anywhere from 20 to 40 students are brought to the North Ward of Trenton, also known as the East Trenton Collaborative zone, to work on community development projects in the neighborhood. The East Trenton Collaborative includes Better Community Housing of Trenton, CityWorks, Habitat for Humanity, HomeFront, Isles, the City of Trenton and East Trenton residents. It was born out of a desire on the part of local residents and agencies to organize so they could have input into how their neighborhood was redeveloped. Students help with beautification projects on CEL Days with ETC, including external painting, park clean up and rehabilitation, gardening and weeding, and other activities.
Trenton Area Soup Kitchen Days
Once a month, first year students interested in addressing the problem of hunger in our cities go to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen with our Bonner team for a full day. They may serve food on the line, prepare hygeine bags, tutor patrons pursuing their GED, or help with our food-stamp registration project. These are eye opening days that personalize hunger and break down tradtioinal stereotypes.
Visitation Home Days
Students who select developmental disabilities spend the day working with Bonners at this residence for adults with Autism and Downs Syndrome. Together, they might complete chores as well as participate in recreational, social and educational activities. On recent visits, TCNJ students and residents painted the deck, baked some brownies, played musical chairs, and made paper bag turkeys for Thanksgiving.
Sixth Grade Writer’s Project
One Wednesday every month, over 100 sixth grade students from the city come to campus to work on a year long short story writing project. First Year students interested in urban education work with them to progress through each stage of the writing process – including how to complete storyboards, develop their plots and characters, and edit their final drafts. At the end of each year, each sixth grader goes home with his published and illustrated story.
Hoops Skills Academy
TCNJ students interested in youth development and sports join Bonners and the TCNJ Men’s Basketball Team to create a very unique day for 75 city kids. They first complete a series of basketball drills that are designed to teach the game and a life skill at the same time. Next, they all leave the court and go to a beautiful academic building where they engage in life-skill workshops in smart rooms. After a final round of hoop skills competitions back in the recreation center, they all attend the TCNJ Men’s Basketball game together and cheer for the players who helped them earlier in the day.