Wilkes University Offers Bonner Leaders Program
Wilkes is the only university in northeastern Pennsylvania and one of eight in the state to offer the service-leadership program to students.
Students with a passion for public service can now enroll in the Wilkes University Bonner Leaders Program. The unique work-study program blends community service and leadership education to inspire students to become service leaders at Wilkes and in the greater community. Wilkes is the only university in northeastern Pennsylvania and one of just eight in the state to offer the service-leadership program to students.
Wilkes alumnus and attorney William Bush has served on the board of the Bonner Foundation since its inception. A long-time advocate for students who are the first in their families to attend college, Bush helped connect the Bonner Foundation to the University.
"Mr. Bush's encouragement, support and guidance was instrumental in our decision to
move forward with the Bonner Leaders Program," said University President Greg Cant.
"It is a program that perfectly aligns with the Wilkes commitment to hands-on learning,
individualized attention and community engagement."
The Bonner Leaders Program is a progressive four-year experience that blends direct service in the community with enrichment and training activities designed to promote leadership, self-awareness, professionalism and public service.
- In year one, Bonner Leaders will spend six to eight hours a week working at a community agency – equaling about 270 hours per academic year.
- As they progress through their studies, Bonner Leaders continue to work at, participate in and eventually lead service activities on and off campus that may include alternative spring break trips, blood drives and community clean-up events.
- Students also engage in an internship at an external nonprofit organization and "exchange programs" where they provide services outside of their immediate region.
- In addition to their work off campus, Bonner Leaders participate in a number of professional development opportunities on campus each week.
The four-year program culminates in a senior capstone project where students conceive,
build and lead their own service project and inspire campus participation. Students
are compensated through work-study funding, providing financial support for their
"The mission and goals of the Bonner Program dovetail seamlessly with the University's core values of community, diversity and mentorship. Through their commitment to service and social justice, our future Bonner Leaders will not only enrich their own experiences and leadership skills, but will also make an indelible impact on the lives of numerous individuals throughout the Wilkes-Barre community," Philip Ruthkosky, Wilkes associate dean of student development.
Bonner Leaders is a national, service-based initiative from the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation. Founded in 1990, the Bonner Leaders Program has grown to a multi-faceted civic engagement and leadership program hosted by a network of more than 70 colleges and universities. In Pennsylvania, Wilkes joins schools like Widener University and Ursinus College to offer the program to incoming students.
Wilkes interfaith coordinator, Kristin Osipower, will coordinate the program during its inaugural year.
"The Bonner Program's philosophy has the capacity to redefine the student's experience in the community. We are not just sending students out to do service work. We are dedicated to helping these students become thoughtful and intentional leaders who are unafraid to invest their time and talents for the good of others," said Osipower. "By becoming co-educators with our community partners, our Bonner students will learn skills and expertise that will be valuable in almost any working environment. Bonner will not only directly impact our students, but it will be transformative for our campus and the surrounding community."
High school students who have been accepted to Wilkes for the fall 2021 semester are
welcome to apply. The application process is competitive with eight to 10 students
selected each year. The deadline to apply is March 31. More information can be found
About Wilkes University
Wilkes University is a private, independent, non-sectarian institution of higher education dedicated to academic and intellectual excellence through mentoring in the liberal arts, sciences and professional programs. Founded in 1933, Wilkes is on a mission to create one of the nation's finest doctoral universities, offering all of the programs, activities and opportunities of a large university in the intimate, caring and mentoring environment of a small college, open to all who show promise. The Brookings Institution ranked Wilkes 14th in the nation for middle-class mobility. In addition to 45 majors, Wilkes offers 24 master's degree programs and five doctoral/terminal degree programs, including the doctor of philosophy in nursing, doctor of nursing practice, doctor of education, doctor of pharmacy, and master of fine arts in creative writing.