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10th Anniversary


Elon senior honored as Barnhill Civic Trailblazer

2016 Barnhill Civic Trailblazer Jenny Fukunaga

Elon senior Jenny Fukunaga is the 2016 Barnhill Civic Trailblazer.

Even before her first day of class at Elon University, our 2016 John H. Barnhill Civic Trailblazer Jenny Fukunaga made a special effort to explore the local community. She traveled to Elon to take part in a summer program that lets incoming students spend a week volunteering in nearby Burlington and Alamance County.

“I am from Los Angeles and I knew going to school all the way across the country would be a big jump for me,” she says. “I knew I would get to know campus through regular orientation activities, but this was an opportunity for me to get out into the community and get to see what happens in Alamance County.”

The experience gave her a different perspective from that of her peers. Jenny was already seeing the campus as part of a wider community, and she has continued to seek and share this insight through her service, leadership, and research.

Jenny’s week of summer service was also her introduction to Elon’s Kernodle Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement. Jenny has been stand-out leader for the Kernodle Center ever since, joining Elon’s service-focused living-learning community her first year, and later mentoring community residents as a service-learning leader. As a junior, Jenny served as the student director of the service-learning community, and she prioritized the infusion of reflection and social justice into resident conversations. Now a senior, Jenny is one of the Kernodle Center’s three executive directors, responsible for coordinating leadership development and training for all 150 student leaders within the Elon Volunteers! program.

“I constantly learn from Jenny,” says Evan Small, assistant director of the Kernodle Center. “I have worked with a wide variety of student leaders, but Jenny stands above others in her passion, commitment to justice, and engagement in local issues. … She truly embodies our mindset of ‘students as colleagues.’”

A human services major, Jenny has also made community engagement a focus of her undergraduate research. Working with Dr. Bud Warner, Jenny has conducted focus groups with Elon students, faculty, and staff, and interviewed local civic leaders to investigate each group’s knowledge and perceptions of the other. Initial findings suggest some negative stereotypes held on both sides but also a lack of awareness among students at what the local area has to offer. According to Dr. Warner, the ongoing study points to a need for increased engagement in ways that create authentic, personal interactions.

As a student leader, Jenny has pushed other students out of their “campus bubble” comfort zone, but she has also made a conscious effort to “walk the walk” herself, going to community events and spreading the word of these opportunities among her network.

“I think it’s important being a resident of Alamance County – even though it is temporary – I can be an active member of the community and be involved and invested.”

Jenny and John Barnhill met recently at Elon to chat about community engagement.

Jenny and John Barnhill met recently to chat about community engagement.

It is fitting that the 2016 Barnhill Trailblazer is so involved with Elon Volunteers!, a student group that was founded by John H. Barnhill, whom the Trailblazer Award honors. Barnhill created the group while a student at Elon University. He later became the founding executive director of NC Campus Compact.

Beyond graduation, Jenny is exploring various service-related options including AmeriCorps, and she plans to pursue graduate studies in non-profit management, where she can keep learning how to help others engage and invest in communities.

For her efforts to better understand the university’s community context – and for her dedicated leadership in helping other students make local connections – NC Campus Compact is happy to recognize Jennifer Y. Fukunaga as the 2016 John H. Barnhill Civic Trailblazer.

Learn more about the Barnhill Award and view past winners.

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