A garden of spinning, bright blue pinwheels on the lawn of Boatwright Library challenged passersby to consider what they could do to stem child abuse.

This garden grew out of the pre-semester Roadmap to Success program, which encourages students to explore self, campus, and community.

Roadmap Two, for example, aims to meet the specific needs of sophomores by focusing on decision making and engagement in the community.

“The sophomore year is a year of decisions,” said Andy Gurka, Roadmap program director. “It’s a year to decide about your major, going abroad, internships and careers, and how to engage in your community.”

The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) collaborates with Gurka on the community-engagement piece.

“The CCE’s part involves getting students out in the community to help address specific needs identified by our partner organizations, while letting students explore and develop their skills as thinkers and active participants,” said Dr. Sylvia Gale, associate director of the CCE.

“The ideal experience is one in which students feel they have something truly useful to offer the community partner — and the partner walks away with a good start to a project that otherwise might have stayed on the shelf.”

Students split into groups to meet with four longstanding CCE community partners to brainstorm ideas for two hours.

So for example, one group reviewed old files at the Hispanic Liaison Office to determine what information would be most helpful to include in a welcome-to-Richmond kit for new immigrants.

Hispanic Liaison Office manager Tanya Gonzalez shared the students’ findings with a high school volunteer, who then created the kit.

Another group of students met with Denise Noble, volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN), to discuss ideas for a campus-wide child-abuse-prevention campaign that would energize their peers.

Roadmap Two focuses on the conceptualization of a project but makes no promises that Richmond students will execute the project. Noble, however, passed the SCAN project along to Bonner Scholar Maddie Spagnola, ’14, who volunteers weekly at SCAN to fulfill her Bonner service requirement.

Noble charged Spagnola with orchestrating a campus campaign to coincide with Child Abuse Prevention Month in April and based in part on some of the ideas generated by the Roadmap focus group.

“I am planning on majoring in business administration with a focus on marketing,” Spagnola explained, “so I loved doing the planning and marketing involved with this campaign.”

Spagnola coordinated several on-campus events in April, including a speaking engagement by Noble, the sale of pinwheels (the national symbol for the prevention of child abuse), and the planting of a pinwheel garden on the Boatwright Library lawn. She anticipates planning another campaign for the coming year.

Meanwhile, Gurka will soon welcome a new batch of Roadmap participants. Some will visit CCE community partners, including Rubicon, a chemical-dependency treatment program.

At Rubicon, Roadmap participants will provide input on a much-needed orientation film for the organization. Students in several community-based learning courses will follow up on the Roadmap planning session to create the film.

“The sustained relationships the CCE builds with community partners lend themselves well to multiple kinds of engagement,” Gale said. “Students can intersect with our partners through traditional volunteering, programs like Roadmap Two, and community-based learning courses.

“In each instance, students enrich their education by gaining a deeper understanding of social issues and by employing critical thinking to address these social issues. As we add on these layers of interaction with our partners, those organizations also experience a richer and deeper impact.” 

Indeed, these opportunities to engage with the community provide a roadmap to a successful college experience.