A Commitment to Service

Christopher Newport University's Bonner Service Scholars Program was launched in 2010 to provide deserving students access to a CNU education and the opportunities, resources and skills to serve humanity. Through this four-year, national program, Bonner Scholars serve at least 10 hours per week during the school year, and many continue working through the summer. Senior De’Vante Allen came to CNU as a Bonner Scholar from his hometown of Woodbridge, Virginia. Allen, a psychology major, serves at the Arc of the Virginia Peninsula (now VersAbility Resources), a nonprofit organization that helps the intellectually and developmentally disabled live, work and thrive in the community. Allen assists Sarah Bowman ('01), VersAbility's marketing director (pictured above) and CNU alumna, with a variety of fundraising and awareness events. “Being a Bonner has definitely been the highlight of my time here at CNU,” he says. “My Bonner family is amazing, and the relationships I have formed with them will be forever.”

Allen’s projects at VersAbility have included, among others, filming, editing and producing a promotional video for VersAbility programs, as well as researching educational programs and assisting in the development of a mobile app that will enable VersAbility clients to explore their community, learn money management and social interaction, and do arts and crafts. As a Bonner Scholar, Allen travels to national gatherings and conferences to train and plan with like-minded peers, and he earns a scholarship to support his studies. Bonner Scholars also help coordinate the Center for Community Engagement’s service tracks, areas of volunteer specialization in which all CNU students may become involved. Bowman says the breadth of experience CNU and the Bonner program have afforded Allen have been his biggest asset at VersAbility. " It is a true pleasure to work with De’Vante," Bowman says. "It has been touching to see how well he interacts with our individuals with disabilities, and the care he shows each person. I am so excited thinking about De’Vante’s bright future and envisioning the numerous ways he is going to make a difference in our world."

Although Allen’s Bonner experience is rich and demanding, his commitment to the program does leave him time to pursue other interests on campus. He is a student ambassador, leads campus tours and supports special weekend events such as open houses. “I have met so many incredible students and families by giving tours,” he says. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone I gave a tour to become a fellow Captain.” He is also enrolled in CNU’s Honors Program, which includes study abroad at Oxford University in England.

Allen works closely with Brad Brewer, Assistant Director of CNU’s Center for Community Engagement, to optimize his Bonner work. “Brad is so passionate when it comes to service,” Allen says. “He has opened my eyes to a career in social entrepreneurship. He listens and treats me as an equal, and honestly wants to hear our comments about the program and wants us to help him grow it. His commitment to service is admirable.”

Brewer has been equally impressed with Allen’s efforts to serve others: “De’Vante is not only an incredible student and example to his peers, but he also possesses a humility and compassion that compel him to care for special-needs individuals through our partnership with VersAbility.” And he knows Allen’s CNU education and work in the Bonner program and will lead to a bright future. “I have no doubt De’Vante will succeed and positively impact any organization fortunate enough to hire him after graduation,” Brewer says.

Allen attributes much of his success to a self-confidence he felt when he arrived on campus as a freshman, and he uses that motivation to encourage others. “Put yourself out there, talk to people and be open-minded,” he says. “I was super shy in high school, but I came to CNU with the mindset that I wanted to be engaged, and that is exactly what happened.”

He’ll look to continue that engagement along with his fellow Scholars. Each class of Bonner Scholars contributes more than 6,000 hours of meaningful community service.--Brian McGuire

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