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February 2, 2009

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Monday, February 2, 2009

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Sadie Beaver never had spent much time in a small community before she visited Henry County-Martinsville on Saturday.

Beaver, who is from St. Louis, Mo., was one of 16 University of Richmond juniors in the Bonner Scholars program who came to the area to talk with educators about differences in teaching in rural and urban areas.

They also performed volunteer service while they were in town, doing some minor renovations to a room at the Community Storehouse in Martinsville.

The room is going to be named in their honor.

"Everyone here's been so ... thankful for our service," Beaver said. "They're so welcoming. Everybody seems to know everyone" else.

Beaver, who is majoring in business with a concentration in marketing, said she eventually might consider taking a job here - if she can find one that is appropriate for her education and experience.

Bonner Scholars is a program at 27 colleges and universities nationwide that, according to its Web site, gives scholarships to students who are interested in performing community service work and have financial needs.

The scholars must do at least 40 hours of community service work monthly, and 280 hours during the summer. In return, they earn stipends to help pay college expenses such as tuition, textbooks and room and board.

The U of R students toured the Virginia Museum of Natural History and then met with local teachers and principals at the Dutch Inn. They later visited Piedmont Arts Association, where they talked with Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson, New College Institute Executive Director Barry Dorsey and Henry County Schools Superintendent Sharon Dodson.

As a Bonner Scholar, "you're expected to do some cumulative program" during the school year focusing on a specific topic, said Zachary Ferguson, who was the only Martinsville-area student among the scholars.

The students chose education as their topic because it is of interest to them.

Ferguson said his mother, Robin, is an assistant principal at Patrick County High School and helped to organize Saturday's activities.

One difference between schools in rural and urban areas is that class sizes in rural areas sometimes are smaller, Ferguson said. That is because urban areas sometimes have teacher shortages, which results in larger classes, he said.

With smaller class sizes, teachers can get to know their students better and spend more time with each student, he indicated.

But if a teacher is talented, he or she "might can do more things (to help students learn) even if there is a shortage of resources," Ferguson said.

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