Jessica I. Gonzalez is a third year student at Notre Dame de Namur University. She is also a third year Bonner Leader, a program through which she is dedicated to community engagement. Jessica has worked with homeless families and with Reading Partners, a highly successful one-on-one approach to literacy. With both partners, Jessica has specialized in encouraging the success of elementary school children who are attending school under extremely difficult circumstances. Jessica is also Treasurer of the University's Rainbow Connection, a group supporting the rights and needs of our LGBTQ students.
My first experience volunteering was in my senior year of high school. I worked for about two months at a local hospital, as required for a student in the Medical Academy program. I turned out to love the experience. Years later, I learned about the Bonner program through a friend. My first placement was at First Step for Families, a homeless shelter in San Mateo. I was new to this work and learned how this specific homeless shelter works to help their clients and how difficult it is to find consistent support. Since sophomore year, I have been volunteering with Reading Partners at John Gill Elementary, which seeks to help students improve their reading and comprehension skills. Most of these students are immigrants, refugees and/or come from other low income families. It is amazing to see how students build self-confidence and improve over time. When I was in kindergarten, I had trouble speaking English, as my parents did not speak the language, and we commonly speak Spanish at home. I wish we had had a program like this when I was younger, which makes me glad to be working with Reading Partners now.