MC Bonner Scholar tutors adult learners

Volunteer Elizabeth Newman

Photo courtesy of Maryville College

Volunteer Elizabeth Newman

Elizabeth Newman tutors a student through the Blount County Adult Education Program

Photo courtesy of Maryville College

Elizabeth Newman tutors a student through the Blount County Adult Education Program

Volunteer Elizabeth Newman

Photo courtesy of Maryville College

Volunteer Elizabeth Newman

The front seat of Elizabeth Newman’s car holds many of the basics any 19-year-old college student would need: textbooks, ink pens, a purse and cell phone. But unlike her peers, Newman also drives around with a Shoney’s menu within reach.

Newman is not a waitress; she is a tutor for the English as a Second Language (ESL) students in the Blount County Adult Education Program, and the menu is a practical teaching tool.

Newman, a writing/communication major from Gatlinburg, is a Bonner Scholar who volunteers at least 40 hours a month in exchange for substantial scholarship dollars to apply toward tuition and books at Maryville College.

The sophomore first saw the MC campus while visiting one of her brothers, John, who graduated in 2007. She said that she loved the atmosphere, and the campus’ proximity to home was attractive – not too close and not too far.

Newman volunteers twice a week for the Blount County Adult Education Program at the Everett Center in Maryville. The mission of the program is to provide a quality education to enable adult learners to meet economic and personal goals. Last year, it served 784 adult learners through the ESL, General Education Development (GED) test preparation and citizenship classes. The program currently has 48 active volunteers.

Newman’s passion for the adult learner stems from experiences with her mother, who is Korean. As a high school student, she accompanied her mother to ESL classes and helped her prepare for the United States citizenship test.

“Working with ESL and adult students is important to me because they don’t have as many resources, and they are eager to learn,” commented Newman.

Currently working one-on-one with a Korean woman who is pursuing her GED, Newman helps her with grammar, pronunciation, reading comprehension and vocabulary.

Newman is not only a tutor, but also a mentor and cheerleader, according to adult education coordinator Carol Ergenbright, one of three full-time, paid staff members at the center.

“The students enjoy working with Elizabeth. She is such a caring, patient person,” remarked Ergenbright.

Last year, Newman taught ESL at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church and volunteered at Asbury Place at Maryville, a nursing facility.

She recalled a challenging task of helping a Chinese student prepare for her driver’s license test.

“She didn’t know any English, so I had to get creative and act out different scenarios,” reflected Newman.

Commenting on her willingness to tackle some difficult assignments, Ergenbright said, “Elizabeth has done an excellent job working with a variety of individuals. I appreciate her because she doesn’t give up when the going gets tough.”

This year, Newman has also volunteered at the Children’s Advocacy Center and Haven House, the non-profit organization dedicated to supporting domestic violence victims and their children. At her main volunteer site, Newman spends most of her volunteer hours at the house babysitting, tutoring residents and assisting with daily household activities. She recently helped start a children’s program, as well.

“I enjoy talking with the women at the house and learning from them. It’s an unconventional family; you never know what to expect,” Newman said.

Newman is also a member of the Maryville College Student Literacy Corps, whose members serve the Blount County community by volunteering in the area of literacy. In addition, she works as a staff writer for The Highland Echo, the College’s student newspaper; in fact, at the College’s annual leadership awards ceremony held April 28, Newman was recognized with the newspaper’s outstanding leadership award.

Newman’s volunteer history began at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School’s Interact Club where she participated in community service through the Elks Club and Rotary Club. During her junior and senior years, Newman tutored students at Pi Beta Phi Middle School.

Newman plans to extend her volunteerism into her career, and is seriously considering joining the Peace Corps after graduation. She said that she will always volunteer; that is part of the reason she applied to be a Bonner Scholar.

“I like the idea behind Bonner – a scholarship that is altruistic. It affects you on every level. It is a commitment. Bonner makes me prioritize helping people,” she explained.

Newman spoke fondly about her fellow Bonners: “My best friends are Bonners – we have a lot of common interests and work well together.”

She credits the Bonner Scholars Program for her strong work ethic, as well as her openness to learning about a variety of issues, such as domestic violence.

“Bonner is the most important work I do. It’s exasperating sometimes balancing my schedule, but it is so rewarding,” Newman stated.

During any given year, approximately 60 Maryville College students are volunteering in the community as Bonner Scholars. These students contribute at least 600 volunteer hours weekly to more than 25 agencies in the community. In a school year, the combined impact is nearly 17,000 hours.

Since the Bonner Scholars program was implemented at Maryville College in 1991, it is estimated that more than 250,000 hours of service have been given to local nonprofits and churches as well as programs in Africa and Latin America.

Founded and supported by the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, based in Princeton, New Jersey, the Bonner Scholars Program consists of students at 27 colleges and universities who receive substantial scholarships from the Foundation in exchange for a commit to perform a certain number of community service hours each year while in college. Money is also provided for group trips taken during summer breaks to service sites in the United States and abroad.

Last year, the Bonner Foundation announced that it would award Maryville College $4.5 million to endow the program. The endowment process includes a requirement that the College match the Bonner Foundation’s grant with $2 million – a $1 million "completion grant" that will be added to the foundation’s $4.5 million to create the Bonner Scholar Endowment, and another $1 million to establish the Bonner Operating Endowment, which will be used to support activities surrounding the Bonner Scholars Program.

The College has until Aug. 1, 2009 to raise the funds necessary for the match.

For more information on the Bonner match, contact Brandon Bruce in the Office of Advancement and Community Relations at 865-981-8191 or

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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