September’s Extraordinary Leader: An Advocate, A Leader, A Bonner

Jasmyn Alexander hears it often around campus.

“Jas, aren’t you a Bonner?”

Yes, she answers. And proud of it.

In 2014, when she arrived as a freshman from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Alexander became part of HPU’s first cohort involved with the Bonner Leader Program, a community service partner with more than 70 colleges and universities nationwide.

Jasmyn working in the community garden with three HPU students, from left to right — Meghan Burr, Nora Bauso, and Jordyn Freburger.

Bonner is a four-year scholarship program that has college students working in their own communities to fight hunger and improve educational opportunities for those residents living nearby who need help and hope.

Alexander does that. She is one of almost 40 Bonner students at HPU, and since her freshman year, she has volunteered more than 600 hours to the Macedonia Family Resource Center near campus.

She has helped immigrants, refugees and others develop habits that can make them healthier, smarter and more community-oriented.

Alexander has earned a national distinction for her work. Last spring, she received the Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellows Award for her work in advocating for an area of High Point that knows struggle firsthand.

 And this month, she earned another distinction: HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for September.

Alexander, a senior, tells anyone who asks that Bonner is her life. If they ask for more, she’ll tell them about her own life.

It was full of love, she’ll say. But it wasn’t always easy.

 

A Transformation Begins

For a moment, Brandi Alexander buckled from emotion.

She was recently divorced, working two jobs, living paycheck to paycheck and using food stamps to get by and relying on free and reduced lunches at school to help feed her four children.

But it wasn’t enough. That’s when Jasmyn, her oldest child, found her crying.

Jasmyn was no older than 15.

“Jas,” her mom told her, “I’m struggling financially.”

“What do you mean struggling?” Jasmyn responded.

Jasmyn with her mom, Brandi Alexander.

“Just because you see we’re eating doesn’t mean we’re not struggling,” Brandi responded. “It just hurts me so bad that I can’t even take my kids to the fair.”

Those moments stick with Jasmyn, and when she walks into Macedonia Family Resource Center to volunteer, she’ll see glimpses of her life and understand.

Brandi got pregnant with Jasmyn when she was 16. She left New York and came to North Carolina to raise Jasmyn and go to school to learn how to style hair. Brandi’s own mom came with her to help. Brandi later got married and had three more children.

Today, Brandi works as a patient intake coordinator at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and she tells Jasmyn, “I live my life through you.”

Jasmyn is the only member of her immediate family to attend a four-year university, and she says she is grateful for her mom’s strength, sacrifices and her lessons about the importance of working hard.

 “I didn’t lack resources, but today, I see how I was blessed when I’m working with families seeking assistance for their children and simply needing every day things,” Jasmyn says today. “Bonner has helped me realize how I can help.”

 

The Victory of One Moment

At the Macedonia Family Resource Center, Alexander has organized all kinds of events from a 5-K run to a Zumbathon. She also has written grants, planted and weeded the center’s community garden, and tutored and mentored students of every age.

That includes a mother in her 30s with two small children. The mother was taking general education courses at a local community college, and at the center, she was sitting in the computer lab preparing for a biology exam. She was lost.

Alexander helped. A few days later, Alexander saw the mother again.

Jasmyn with her maternal grandmother, Susan Alexander.

“Jasmyn, I came to thank you,” the mother told Alexander. “I haven’t been to school in so many years, and you’re the reason I passed that test.”

Alexander does know her biology.

She’s an exercise science major and Spanish minor. She’s also an emergency medical technician and a certified nursing assistant. She became an EMT and a CNA to gain experience working with patients to differentiate her from the other college graduates applying to grad school.

Meanwhile, for five months earlier this year, she worked as a medical scribe in the emergency room of a local hospital.

Alexander wants to become a physician’s assistant. Why? Ask her grandmother.

 

A Granddaughter’s Growth

Alexander’s maternal grandmother was a geriatric nurse, and when Alexander was no older than seven, Alexander would go with her to work.

She’d be walking by her grandmother’s side, seeing her grandmother treat patients like family. Alexander would ask her loads of questions, and always Alexander’s grandmother would have an answer.

But Alexander is no longer the little girl with the round teeth known to her grandmother as “Bobangry Smangry.” That two-word nickname still makes Alexander laugh.

Jasmyn with the crew of students who worked with Steve Wozniak.

She’s a Presidential Scholar, a member of three honor societies and one of six exercise majors selected to participate in a summit recently with Apple co-founder and HPU Innovator in Residence Steve Wozniak.

“HPU has transformed me,” Alexander says. “And when I say transformed, I’m not talking about the academic classes, I’m talking about the teachers and staff members and the opportunities presented to me, and of course, the Bonner program.

“I’ve been transformed into the person I want to be. When I was a freshman, I didn’t know who I was. But by the grace of God, I do know now.”

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