George Mason University

News at Mason

High-achieving Mason student keeps on giving back

September 3, 2019   /   by Mariam Aburdeineh

Amini Bonane. Photo by Lathan Goumas/Office of Communications and Marketing.

What began as a vacation to the United States became a permanent stay for Amini Bonane and her family when war broke out in their home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I’m really grateful to be here, and I take nothing for granted,” said Bonane, who said she escaped the war at age 2.

The George Mason University senior, studying finance, philosophy and law in the bachelor of individualized study program, said she wants to empower African youth and women, and is a member of the African Women Council and the African Immigrant Caucus. She said her gratitude drives her to give back.

In addition to having served as the president of Mason’s Model African Union, Tau Sigma Honor Society, and on the executive boards of the African Student Association and Student Government, Bonane started a jewelry line, Nchi J Co, that supports Malaika, a girls’ school in her home country.

She also created a nonprofit organization to support Brains Then Beauty, a women’s mentorship program she founded on campus in 2018. Due to demand, a men’s chapter—Brains Then Brawn—will be starting this fall, Bonane said.

“I believe that your race, gender, [and] socioeconomic background should never determine your quality of life,” Bonane said. “That’s why I created this space of support for students.”

The organization encourages its members to define and refine themselves before following society’s blueprint for who they should be, Bonane said. It incorporates volunteering—last year Bonane said the students packaged more than 300,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger—as well as personal and professional development events, such as networking brunches with professionals.

“Amini is a natural leader. Most importantly, Amini seems to be someone who does not just want to lead but elevate and support other leaders,” said Mason School of Integrative Studies and history professor Wendi N. Manuel-Scott, faculty advisor of Brains Then Beauty. “If Amini continues to demonstrate indefatigable determination and selflessness, she will be a force to be reckoned with.”

Bonane said Mason has also provided an opportunity-creating network.

“It’s been amazing—through the people that I’ve met at Mason, I’ve been able to create the opportunities to mold what I wanted my experience to be and to create a community for people to come together,” Bonane said.

She said participating in Mason Lobbies with Student Government gave her experience with lobbying and helped her advocate for other issues, such as the Conflict Free Campus Initiative.

Summer opportunities, like the Mason Summer Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program (MSEA), where Bonane conducted customer analysis, will help her jewelry company advance to the next level, she said.

“[MSEA] was such an intensive learning environment,” Bonane said of the program that allowed her to learn from experienced entrepreneurs and gave her new business ideas. “I learned we weren’t selling jewelry, we’re selling culture…. It’s our way of making an impact on the world.”

When not working on her business this summer, Bonane interned as a research associate at the Seven Pillars Institute, a think tank focused on financial ethics.

Bonane, who gave a TEDx Talk last November, is also completing her undergraduate degree while earning a corporate finance certification online from Harvard. She said she intends to earn a master’s degree in finance there after graduating from Mason.

Her schedule may seem intense, but Bonane has learned to delegate, take breaks and ask for help when needed, she said. She plans to keep moving forward.

“Giving back to your community is the number one thing you can do to show how grateful you are to be in that community,” Bonane said. “My purpose on this earth is to help others—why else was I chosen to have these amazing opportunities?”