Each year, a student who shows enthusiasm for community service and the ability to encourage the same in others is named Outstanding Student Leader of the Year. This year, Neil Hartmann Jr. was chosen out of 52 nominees to receive the honor.
In a press release, the College listed the criteria for the award as “the ability to motivate others, well- developed communication skills, a demonstrated commitment to improving the College community, strong academic performance, leadership in student organizations and service to others.”
Among his many distinctions, Hartmann, a junior communication studies major, is the president of the Bonner Community Scholars, a program at the College that focuses on community service. He has been a part of the program since his freshman year when he was chosen to be one of the 10 students from his class to participate. Hartmann’s selection was based on previous volunteering experience and his high school transcript. Participation in the program requires dedication and a passion to help others.
“We as Bonner Community Scholars are required to do 280 hours (of volunteer work) a year, but most of us do way more than that,” Hartmann said. “I usually do about 200 a semester.”
“Neil is awesome,” Maria De La Cruz, junior international studies major and fellow Bonner Community Scholar, said. “He puts everything he’s got into everything. He’s very passionate, caring and just a fun person to work with.”
Hartmann is also the volunteer coordinator for the Trenton-area Habitat for Humanity, a position he earned after working with the program for a year and gaining responsibility and experience. With Habitat, Hartmann has volunteered at job sites in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. He will be continuing his work with the program full time during the summer.
“(The job with Habitat) really means a lot to me because I have a very big say in how things operate there,” Hartmann said. “It’s rewarding to know that they trust me and value me enough to give me so much responsibility. Beyond that, I love everyone I work with and all the great strides we are making with revamping the business structure of Habitat in Trenton. I really feel like I am making an impact on the place.”
Despite all of his recent community service, Hartmann feels that he has left his true passion, environmental awareness, behind. During high school, he participated in his town’s environmental committee, where he “helped develop plans for park space from a student’s perspective.” He also created a program in which high school seniors could end their school year with two weeks of volunteer work rather than having classes and finals. He called this accomplishment one of his “most proud achievements, as it helped (his) school and (his) community at the same time.”
“I am planning to dedicate a lot of time next year to a new environmental club on campus called RISE (Realistic Individuals Saving the Environment),” Hartmann said, “so that I can get back to one of my passions that has, since college, fallen to the wayside. And that is helping to try and save the environment, starting with our campus.”
Hartmann said several professors from the College have encouraged his community service over the past few years. Nino Scarpati, assistant dean of the School of Nursing, Health and Exercise Science, in particular, said Hartmann “did a good job of tying what (Hartmann’s class was) learning in the classroom into (their) service work.” Hartmann also called Susan Ryan and Lorna Johnson, professors of communication studies, “very encouraging, . motivating and inspiring.”
In the future, Hartmann hopes to expose students at the College to various volunteer opportunities and instill in them the understanding that community service is important and worthwhile.
“Service can be a lot of fun and very rewarding if you find a way to give back to the community that speaks to you,” Hartmann said. “When we leave college, we will be outside of this little bubble in Ewing and we hope to give people an eye-opening experience to show them that real people face real issues every day in the city right next to us. We can all do something to help.”