They buildOn:Program Advisor William Bowles Helps Students find Meaning in Life Through Service

William Bowles is the driving force behind buildOn’s afterschool program at Detroit’s Western International High School, according to buildOn staff member Keisha Brooks. She said he expects great things from his students and holds them accountable. William has been an advisor with buildOn for so long he doesn’t remember the date he started; his memories have all melded together.

[pullquote]He is very fun and at the same time very serious.

William got involved with buildOn because of his passion for global issues. He is a Library Media Specialist at the school, and through his resources, he gives his buildOn students access to computers and introduces them to books. “Considering literacy is something important to buildOn’s goal, and with our illiteracy rate being so high (in the region), having interesting books to read for the students is imperative,” Keisha said.

Keisha and William have been working on Taste Fest, a popular potluck fundraiser that transforms the library into a restaurant. William, who goes into full character as the maitre d, says the program is successful because it brings the staff and the students together. The fourth and last Taste Fest of the school year will take place in May and feature karaoke.

“He is very fun and at the same time very serious,” Keisha says. “He’s really an activist for maintaining the quality of education.”

Years worked at buildOn: I joined in 2003, 2004, 2005 or 2006. I’m not quite sure.

What were you doing before you joined buildOn?

I started working at the school in 1993. Before that I taught overseas in Zaire, I spent a year in Nigeria as a grad student and I taught in Turkey.

How has buildOn changed your life?

It really increased my awareness (of service organizations) and appreciation for the need to do service and the satisfaction that it gives.

What are some of your favorite memories working with buildOn?

[pullquote]I remember looking at the faces of some of these young people and thinking, “Wow, these kids have gotten out of bed to come out and help.”[/pullquote]

One of the things I remember was a cold October morning, Saturday, maybe 8 o’clock, and I think we were doing tree planting with my school and a few other schools. I remember looking at the faces of some of these young people and thinking, “Wow, these kids have gotten out of bed to come out and help.” It’s sort of an iconic image for me. They’ve been given the opportunity to serve and what they end of doing is having a lot of fun.

What does buildOn mean to you?

The bulk of buildOn is the ongoing service. So, when I think of buildOn I think of the value the students receive in the act of helping others — and in that act they learn so much. It’s not only increased awareness of the needs of the community but also the multiplicity of organizations that do outreach, that serve the community in different ways. It gives the students an opportunity to develop a philosophy of life, and one of the main components of driving meaning to one’s life comes from service.

Complete this sentence: buildOn is… necessary.