By Paul Holston
On Oct. 1, Amanda Bonam officially became the newest Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC1B after being sworn in at the “Wilson Building” by Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau. Bonam succeeds the outgoing ANC1B10 Commissioner and Howard student Allyson Carpenter. Bonam is a junior at Howard University studying sociology and community development from New Orleans, La. At age 19, she was elected to serve as an ANC in the District of Columbia, making her one of the youngest elected officials in the history of the nation’s capital. In addition to elected office, Amanda serves as the president of Howard University’s Community Development Association. She is active in various community associations such as the Pleasant Plains Civic Association and Howard University Community Association. Earlier this year, the student leader was tapped by BET to serve as an ambassador for their digital campaign, What’s At Stake. Upon graduation, Amanda hopes to return to her hometown of New Orleans to focus on community revitalization projects centered around holistic health and economic opportunity. Learn about her background, thoughts on being involved in the community and words of advice from the newest ANC Commissioner below:
PH: What was your reason(s) to deciding to become an ANC Commissioner while simultaneously being a Howard University student?
AB: I’ve been interested in community work since before I came to Howard. I became involved in community meetings at home in New Orleans specifically after Hurricane Katrina. It was important to me to involve myself in the community when I got to D.C. The ANC plays a major role across the District so becoming involved with the ANC was a natural thing for me. As far as running as a student, to me, civic engagement is imperative and I think that in a position like this, it’s really important to have a student voice present because we always want to make sure that Howard is represented strongly in this neighborhood.
PH: When did you start finding out about ANC and when you were interested?
AB: I originally came to Howard as a journalism major with few connections to the Shaw/Howard community. My mentor at the time was really involved in community work and inspired me in many ways to get involved and even to become a community development minor. I found out about the ANC specifically through my friend Allyson Carpenter, a former ANC1B10 Commissioner, and that became something that we both did together as freshmen. We both attended our first ANC meeting in 2014.
PH: What are some of the challenges that you believe that you face as being a local official and being a college student?
AB: I think that being a good student within itself can be a challenge and being a good commissioner can also be a challenge. While a lot of the work I’m doing as a sociology major and community development minor ties back into what I’m doing as a commissioner, I do think that balancing my responsibilities will definitely pose a challenge. In addition to my schoolwork and my work as an ANC, I serve as the president of the Howard University Community Development Association and will soon begin an internship with the Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiative. While I do have a lot of responsibilities, I am passionate about the work that I am doing and intend to finish everything that I have started.
PH: Why is it important to be involved in the community that you reside in?
AB: I think that if you don’t take initiative to know what’s going on in your community and the problems that are being faced in your community, nothing will change. It’s crucial that as residents, especially as Howard students, we speak out as we have a voice in this community. Involvement is vital to keeping the community strong. Howard University is an anchor institution and plays such an important role in overall identity of the neighborhood so it is imperative that we become and remain involved so that our identity is not lost.
PH: What is some advice you would give to Howard students who desire to be involved in the community, as well as being included in the decisions that happen around the ANC1B area?
AB: I encourage all of my colleagues to keep your eyes open to what is going on around you. Find community events/activities that appeal to you and go to them. Attend local community meetings and develop relationships with our neighbors who frequent them. Appreciate and be active in the city that you reside in for the next four years, it is the nation’s capital.
PH: Is there anything that you would like to leave a message to the Howard community?
AB: Getting involved in public service isn’t something distant or intangible for us as young people. I started here at Howard knowing little more than that I wanted to help people in my community. I believed that the path to doing so was getting a degree and then finding a good job where I could help people in some way. Through simply getting involved in the community and attending community meetings , I saw local issues in a new light and also began to see that I could help to find solutions even as a college student. It is really easy to believe the people who tell you that you need to wait until you are older or get a degree to solve problems but I believe that we can do it now.
[Story was Published in Howard University’s “The Hilltop” Student Newspaper 8Oct2015]