Bonner Leader Program

Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve

If you have a passion for public service and a desire to be a positive force in your community, Wilkes University’s Bonner Leader Program can help you build the skills you need to lead the charge for change.

During your time at Wilkes, you’ll commit to participate in this unique work-study experience that blends community service with enrichment and training activities. The program provides financial support for your education and promotes:

  • Leadership
  • Self-awareness
  • Professional skills

You’ll join a nationally acclaimed, service-based initiative. From its introduction by the Bonner Foundation in 1990, the Bonner Leader Program has grown to a multi-faceted civic engagement and leadership program hosted by a network of more than 70 colleges and universities.

Inspired by the motto “Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve,” Bonner alumni share their talents on a local, national and global level.

How to Apply

If you are ready to grow through access to education and opportunity to serve, apply to be a Bonner Leader at Wilkes.

Each year, the University will select only eight to 10 incoming first-year students via a competitive application process. You must be admitted to Wilkes University to apply.

Deadline to apply is the spring prior to your first semester at Wilkes.

Finalists will be invited for an interview with the selection committee that will take place on campus or via Zoom. Students selected into the program will be notified shortly thereafter.

Apply to Bonner


For questions regarding the Bonner Leaders program, please contact:

Catie Becker

Bonner Leader Program Coordinator

Being a Bonner Leader

Wilkes University seeks diverse applicants who want to make their corner of the world a better place.

You may be eligible for the Wilkes Bonner Leader program if you...

  • Possess a fierce desire to change the world.
  • Demonstrate active service involvement in your high school or community.
  • Will be an incoming first-year student in the fall semester.
  • Have submitted a FAFSA to Wilkes University.
  • Are eligible for a federal work-study award and demonstrate financial need.
Preference will be given to...
  • Those with high school grade-point average of 2.75 and above.
  • Individuals from diverse backgrounds.
  • Recipients of Wilkes University Colonel Emerging Leader Award.

The Bonner Leader program offers transformative advantages to you, the Wilkes campus and the surrounding area:

Bonner Benefits

  • Earn work-study pay for eight to 10 hours of program service, training and reflection each week.
  • Gain valuable work experience, leadership skills and career insight by engaging in progressively more challenging and meaningful training and community service activities.
  • Develop an appreciation for experiences of those different from you.
  • Become an essential part of peer and staff support that cultivates a stronger sense of belonging on campus.
  • Have the opportunity to participate in regional and national conferences.
  • Network with other members of this nationally recognized program.
  • Become an active leader on campus and in the community.

Participation in the Bonner Leader Program is a four-year commitment to yourself, your campus and your community.

As a Bonner Leader at Wilkes, You Will...

  • Commit to six to eight hours per week — about 270 hours per academic year — of direct service in the community.
  • Participate in regular training and enrichment activities.
  • Assume leadership roles in various on-campus civic engagement initiatives.
  • Participate in cornerstone activities, including the first-year alternative break trip and second-year exchange with Bonner Leaders from other schools.
  • Present a senior capstone project.

Five "E"s of Bonner


If you’re chosen for the program, Wilkes has recognized your passion for service and your commitment to use your talents to make a positive impact on the community.


From the start of the program, we’ll encourage you to explore the Wilkes-Barre community by way of service and to refine your sense of self-awareness and civic identity through weekly trainings and reflections.


While performing direct service at a local agency, you will receive in-depth training and work closely with staff to further understand their mission and analyze community issues. You will also gain valuable experience coordinating major service initiatives on campus.


As you advance into their third and fourth years in the program, you will assume advanced responsibilities within selected community agencies and take on more significant capacity building projects.


At the conclusion of the Bonner experience, you will be able to better recognize, discuss and analyze complex social issues affecting both Wilkes-Barre and our broader society.

Year-by-Year Overview

Bonner Leader Beginnings

Spend six to eight hours a week serving at a community agency and one to two hours in formal education, training and reflection sessions. Leaders are afforded the opportunity to participate in an alternative break service trip with their cohort in the spring and may also pursue summer internships throughout their first three years in the program.

Leadership and Service

In addition to direct service and trainings, begin to assume more expanded leadership roles on campus. Present educational sessions to the first-year cohort and take on significant roles in ongoing campus initiatives sponsored by the Civic Engagement Office such as blood drives, Special Olympics, Into the Streets Clean-up and Alternative Break. Participate in the “second-year exchange,” providing service outside your region.

Cohorts, Projects, and Capstone

While continuing participation in the periodic cohort educational sessions and trainings, take on more significant capacity-building projects within direct-service agencies. As a fourth-year student, complete and present a senior capstone project connecting knowledge from academic studies and Bonner sessions to direct service experiences.

Meet the Bonner Leaders

Brenda Arias

Brenda Arias

I see so many things that are wrong in this world that need to be fixed and just talking about it doesn’t help it, but doing something can.Brenda Arias
  • Hometown: Hanover Township, PA
  • Major: Hospitality Leadership
Emily Blaine

Emily Blaine

I want to be a Bonner because I will be doing something I love by helping others through my actions and helping others succeed in what they love.Emily Blaine
  • Hometown: Shavertown, PA
  • Major: Pre-Pharmacy
Bhavikia Dawar

Bhavika "Nikki" Dawar

I ultimately chose to be a part of Bonner because the act of service is what has connected me to my hometown. I want to use my past service experiences as the ground work for my future at Wilkes to grow closer to my new home.Bhavika "Nikki" Dawar
  • Hometown: Sparta, NJ
  • Major: Biology/Pre-Medicine
Alexis Nardone

Alexis Nardone

What I hope to get out of the Bonner Program is the ability to serve and help people. I believe that helping people is the greater goal.Alexis Nardone
  • Hometown: Rockaway, NJ
  • Major: Early Childhood Education
Amelia O'Connor

Amelia "Mia" O'Connor

Service is one of the things I have been called to do for the mutual benefit of others. I do service to help make the world a better place for those to come in the future.Amelia "Mia" O'Connor
  • Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
  • Major: Nursing
Marytere Quintana-Avila

Marytere Quintana-Avila

At a young age I learned the value of helping others and the impact it holds. The Bonners Leaders Program was the perfect program for me and what I was interested in accomplishing. I just knew I had to be a part of it.Marytere Quintana-Avila
  • Hometown: Scranton, PA
  • Major: Political Science
Ada Soriano

Ada Soriano

Being involved in community service is one of my objectives in life and I believe that the Bonner Leaders program can assist me with that goal.Ada Soriano
  • Hometown: Wilkes-Barre
  • Major: Pre-Pharmacy
1 of 8

Universities in PA, and the only university in Northeast PA, to offer Bonner Leader


Paid workstudy hours each week for program service, training, and reflection


Years gaining valuable work experience, leadership skills and career insight within the program

Bonner Leaders in Action

Bonner Leader Program

Additional Opportunities