Reflections From Some of our Senior Bonner Leaders
Jaelene Perez (click here to watch Jaelene’s video reflection on YouTube)
Hometown: Bronx, NY
General Education Concentrations: Racism and Identity; Race and Ethnicity
Community Partner: Pine Tree Legal Assistance
Hometown: Jamaica Plain, MA
Minor: Gender and Sexuality Studies
General Education Concentration: Identity, Race, and Ethnicity
Community Partners: Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
“Hello, everyone. I would like to start by saying thank you. Thank you for four years of outstanding support. Thank you for being my community when I felt my most alone, confused, and lost. Prior to coming to Bates, I knew that I wanted to go to a school that cherished community; not just an academic one, but the larger community. I wanted to continue to work on my advocacy skills, and I also wanted to continue to help elevate voices that often are silenced. When I first read about the Bonner Leader Program, I remember saying “this is it, this is my chance.” And it was.
Over the course of the past four years, I have engaged with Lewiston Middle School, Maine Immigrant Resource Services, Hillview Housing Community, the Aspirations program, Maine Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, and the Volunteer Lawyers Project. I learned a lot while in these placements. I learned what it means to be civically engaged. I learned how to communicate across cultures while providing them with the necessary services they needed in order to accomplish their goals, whether that be with learning how to speak English, extending their green card status, or being able to obtain fair representation in court. I utilized the Bonner program as a way to obtain insight into what I want to do with my life.
After my first year, I kept asking myself how my Bonner work would translate after I graduated from Bates. Now, I can tell you this: Bonner helped me center myself in the realm of legal services. I knew that I wanted to be an attorney, but my Bonner work allowed me to narrow my interests. More specifically, my work this year with the Volunteer Lawyers Project left an imprint on me. As a volunteer, I would participate in intake consultations and perform financial screenings. By observing how volunteer lawyers addressed Protection of Abuse orders, I was able to understand the varying functions of the court. Even though it was difficult for me to switch gears and focus on the defendant rather than the plaintiff, I was able to wrap my head around the philosophy that everyone has a right to proper representation. Everyone deserves due process.
My experiences have led me to this very important conclusion, as stated by David Viscott (psychiatrist, talk show host, and author): “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” I am comfortable saying that I hope that for the rest of my life, I continue to participate in this project that highlights and centers community and belonging. No matter what I end up doing, that element needs to be present.”
Jesus Carrera (click here to watch Jesus’ video reflection on YouTube)
Hometown: Waco, TX
Majors: Classical and Medieval Studies; Mathematics
General Education Concentration: Learning and Teaching
Community Partners: Lewiston Middle School