The biography of Harry Bonner describes the Bonner family’s arrival in Albion, Harry Bonner’s school years, his meeting and marrying his beloved wife Jerlene, and his very first mentoring job as a hall monitor at Albion High School in 1975. That was, literally, the beginning of the rest of their lives, and without the support and sacrifices of Jeri and their sons, Elgin and Harry Jr., Harry Sr. insists, he could never have accomplished the work he did. The book goes on to describe the lessons Bonner learned from his own mentors over the years, the non-profit organizations that Bonner formed to continue his quest to help kids, and key partners such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Michigan State University’s Calhoun County 4-H program. There is fascinating information about the ways in which Bonner’s youth mentoring work had to evolve and adapt to follow not only funding streams, but also the powerful economic and cultural ebbs and flows in Albion itself through the rest of the century and on into the 2000s.
The receipt of his Honorary Doctorate may have given us the perfect place to end this book – but it is by far the end of Harry Bonner’s mentoring journey.
“It’s my hope that this book can be used as a how-to or a textbook for anyone who wants to be a mentor,” Harry says today as yet another way to “pass the torch.” Towards that end, near the back of the book are a set of discussion questions that can be used by a book club or group of students who engage in a reading of this mentoring journey.
Today, in his seventies, Bonner continues to work with youth in Albion. He’s cut back a little, and with Jeri at his side travels as often as he can to visit their sons, grandchildren, and great grandkids in Illinois and North Carolina.
Author: Michelle Mueller