Foundations by Phil Penepent
My first experience with BonaResponds was on Spring Break during my freshman year (Spring 2008). I went with a group of nearly 100 volunteers to Pearlington Mississippi and assisted in building new houses for Hurricane Katrina Victims. On our way we stopped in Pass Christian to drop off a dozen of our people for the week.
Everyone got off the bus at the base camp there to take a look around. I began wandering and ended up across the street. What I found was an eerie sight at first: a whole foundation, no house attached, with the words “don’t demolish, will rebuild” spray painted to the front. That foundation wasn’t the only one I saw that week that still didn’t have a house on top of it in Mississippi. While I worked on rebuilding houses I reflected on that first foundation I saw. Those unmovable foundations made me realize that if you build a strong enough foundation in life, nothing will be able to rock it and you can always rebuild.
This lesson has become a driving force for me back here at Bonas. I do whatever it takes to get the most out of the education I receive in order to build a solid foundation for the rest of my life. I am lucky to have taken away a lesson like this and be able to make it into a mission statement for this unique period in my life.
A solid foundation for me has meant achievement in the classroom, studying abroad in Italy last semester, obtaining valuable internships, and being actively involved in my community.
In retrospect, that barren foundation had a big effect on me so far. I had not even begun volunteering with BR at that point and I was already learning life lessons. By being involved I have recognized that BonaResponds is part of my extraordinary story and I continue to take an active role in the organization. BR allowed me to break out of my shell as a freshman while making some very close friends. Since my first Gulf Coast trip I have become a leader on numerous local service days in Buffalo, Olean, Friendship, and Salamanca. I really enjoy recruiting people to volunteer with us and talking about my experiences!