Bonner Scholars Program

Bonner Scholars Group Photo

The Bonner Scholars Program is a unique opportunity for students who want to combine:

  • personal growth,
  • leadership, and
  • scholarship

with a commitment to service.

History of the Program at Berea College

Berea College was the first institution chosen to participate in the Bonner Scholars Program. It first took part in the fall of 1990. The Corella and Bertram Bonner Foundation of Princeton, New Jersey established the program. After working with John Stephenson, then President of Berea, the foundation determined that Berea’s

  • history,
  • reputation, and
  • commitment to the ethic of service

made it the ideal institution to launch the program.

From 1993 to 1998, Berea College was not involved in the Program. It rejoined as of the 1998-99 academic year.  That year, 40 students distributed throughout the four classes became designated Bonner Scholars. The program now engages around 60 students. These students represent a diverse collection of interests, majors and backgrounds in service. They serve on campus and in the Berea community. They also serve in extended opportunities for national and international service .

Berea Bonners are part of a nationally recognized network of student leaders. These students share a reputation for outstanding leadership on their respective campuses. They display a commitment to make a difference in the communities and organizations they serve.

The Program Today

Today, the Bonner Scholars Program reaches 27 campuses nationwide. It is based on the premise that young people care about others and want to make a difference in the world. It is also based on the belief that college students have a significant contribution to make to society. They can become active leaders and change agents in the local community and beyond.

Each year, 15 new Bonner Scholars are selected from the incoming class of First Year students. Students remain in the program through graduation.

Bonner Scholars are selected based upon:

  • their scholarship,
  • service activities,
  • demonstrated leadership potential and
  • financial need. [See selection]

Once selected, they embark on a journey of personal growth and exploration. These experiences are augmented by a structured program of:

  • training,
  • teambuilding,
  • guided reflection,
  • enrichment activities and
  • experiences that remain with them long after their time at Berea has ended.


The Bonner Scholars Program offers the following opportunities to students:

  • Labor positions in service beginning with the freshman year (See Bonner Service)
  •  Leadership training, regional conferences and service events
  • A developmental model that includes mentoring from upper-level service leaders
  • Ongoing enrichment programs, including guest speakers
  • National Bonner Foundation resources
  • Financial assistance for summer service projects
  • Connections with students at the other 26 Bonner Scholar programs
  • Networking opportunities with the additional 50 schools affiliated with the Bonner Foundation.

How to Apply

The application process for the class of 2020 is now open. The deadline for all application is Friday March 11, 2016.