Joseph McKeen
Center for the Common Good

Julie Bender
Class of 2013

Posted April 09, 2012

Julie Bender (Neuroscience) gained her initial experience with community work at Bowdoin by becoming a mentor with Bears and Cubs. This sparked her interest in the McKeen Center, and encouraged her to become involved in other community service at Bowdoin.

During winter break of her first year, Julie participated in an Alternative Winter Break service trip that worked within the soup kitchen and food bank at Preble Street in Portland, Maine. She helped to cook and serve meals, organize the organization's clothing closet, and distribute food through the food bank.  Julie also participated in an Alternative Spring Break freshman year in which she traveled to Washington, DC to address issues of hunger and homelessness. During this trip, she helped paint a homeless shelter, prepared and served food at a soup kitchen, and met with representatives to discuss issues of homelessness.

Sophomore year, Julie continued her involvement with the McKeen Center as a member of the Common Good Grant Committee. Through this committee, she helped to review grant applications submitted by nonprofits from the Midcoast Maine area, and then distributed $16,650 to fund various projects within these organizations.

Julie's positive experience with the McKeen Center and nonprofits in Midcoast Maine encouraged her to apply for a Community Matters in Maine Fellowship to work with Cornerstones of Science, a non-profit organization in Brunswick for the summer after freshman year. With Cornerstones of Science, she developed an "education trunk" full of interactive and fun lessons to teach children about the human body. This trunk continues to travel through Cornerstones' twenty partner libraries. Julie also created a science blog for the organization's website and co-taught science programs across Maine.

This summer, Julie will continue her community work as a Global Citizens Grant recipient. She will be travelling to Kaberamaido, Uganda to work at a medical clinic and orphanage and will be leading the organization's animal husbandry club, volunteering at the medical clinic, and teaching English to children.

"We can't approach service opportunities with the mindset that we are going to "fix" things. By seeing it this way, we will inevitably create a hierarchy between ourselves and those we serve. In my years at Bowdoin, I have learned to approach service work with a humble attitude, fully aware that service is a mutual exchange between the volunteer and the community. In this way, I have formed lasting relationships and learned life lessons from those I've met within the communities with which I've worked."

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“Through my experience with community work at Bowdoin, I have learned that volunteering is as much about the lessons that I learn as the impact I make within a community.”