It’s no wonder that a UAFS student whose volunteer activities regularly overflow her calendar would be invited to speak at the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism; a real surprise would be if she weren’t.
Fatima Bonilla, a junior elementary education student and member of Jumpstart Arkansas at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, has been invited to participate in a panel discussion at the EngageAR office in Little Rock.
Kimberly Taylor, coordinator of Jumpstart at UAFS, said she was beaming with pride when Bonilla told her about the invitation. “It’s a huge honor,” Taylor said. “This young lady has such a bright future.”
Dr. Monica Riley, executive director of the School of Education, explained the honor: “This is a select group of individuals chosen for their leadership in the state related to service.”
As a member of Jumpstart, Bonilla commits to serving 300 hours in national service. She is in her second year as a team leader.
“My team and I deliver innovative early learning instruction with a focus on language, literacy, and social-emotional skills,” Bonilla said. “The path of success begins at a young age, and Jumpstart allows us to initiate this with literacy instruction to children who come from low-income families in the Fort Smith community. And being bilingual has helped me better connect with many of the students.”
Bonilla also likes participating in Jumpstart because it allows her to advocate for children and to apply what she is learning in her education classes.
“Jumpstart has made me see moments when my team’s and my service has made a difference in the lives of the children we serve,” she said.
In addition to time spent with the children, Bonilla said as a member of Jumpstart at UAFS, she has packed snack bags for the backpack program at the Community Services Clearinghouse, created and delivered flyers for Heart to Heart Pregnancy Center, and served dinner for residents at the Community Rescue Mission. With other students, she built a library and sanitized facilities at Hamilton House just as COVID 19 hit, delivered thank you bags to the UAFS PD for 9/11, assembled personal protective equipment bags for the Fort Smith Children’s Emergency Center, and created family engagement packets for Martin Luther King Jr. day for members of the 100 Families project.
The Jumpstart volunteer hours can be hard to keep separate from other service activities she does in the normal course of being a UAFS student.
“It’s difficult to keep track of, but I do love it,” she confided.
She also volunteers for her church, Immaculate Conception, where she teaches religious education to children..
Bonilla will have other ways to apply her education lessons this summer when she will intern at the Children’s Emergency Shelter through the Tyson Internship and the United Way of Fort Smith Area.
Bonilla, who hopes to have a preschool classroom and maybe even a preschool center someday, said her experience with Jumpstart has provided her with practical skills and insights. She says she has learned collaboration and communication while seeing firsthand the real-world issues that communities experience.
Riley has words of praise for Bonilla and Taylor.
“I am so proud of Fatima and of Kimberly Taylor, our coordinator for the Jumpstart, EngageAR AmeriCorps program, who has instilled a love for service in each of our members.”