Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service (CELTS)

Bonner Scholars Program


The Bonner Scholars Program at Berea College is a unique opportunity for students. This program is for students who want to combine personal growth, leadership and scholarship with a commitment to service.

History of the Program at Berea College

In the fall of 1990, Berea College became the first institution chosen to participate in the Bonner Scholars Program. The Corella and Bertram Bonner Foundation of Princeton, New Jersey created the program.  After working with John Stephenson, then President of Berea, the foundation determined that Berea was the ideal institution to launch the program. This is because of its history, reputation and commitment to the ethic of service. From 1993 to 1998, Berea College was not involved in the Program. It rejoined as of the 1998-99 academic year.  In that year, 40 students distributed throughout the four classes were designated Bonner Scholars. The program now engages some 60 students. They represent a diverse collection of interests, majors and backgrounds in service on campus and in the Berea community as well as in extended opportunities for national and international service.

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

The Program Today

Today, the Bonner Scholars Program reaches 27 campuses nationwide. The program is based on the premise that young people care about others and want to make a difference in the world. It’s also based on the belief that college students have an important contribution to make to society. Given the opportunity, along with support and guidance, they can become active as 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 and remain with 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 augmented by a structured program of:

  • training,
  • team building,
  • 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.


Berea College Bonner Scholars Endorsement Form




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