Wilkes University

Bonner Leaders 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 Leaders Program can help you build the skills you need to lead the charge for change.

During four years 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 Leaders 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.

Wilkes is the only university in northeastern Pennsylvania and one of just eight universities in the state to offer the Bonner Leaders program.

Bonner Eligibility

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 Leaders 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 3.0 and above;
  • individuals from diverse backgrounds;
  • recipients of Wilkes University Colonel Emerging Leader Award.

Program Benefits

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

  • 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.

Bonner Commitment

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

As a Bonner Leader at Wilkes, you’ll:

  • 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

The Bonner Leaders Program is driven by the Five E’s:


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.

In the final year of the program, you will present a senior capstone project showcasing an in-depth analysis of issues from your service experience.

Year-by-year Overview

Bonner leaders follow a four-year student development model that blends direct service in the community along with enrichment and training activities designed to promote leadership, self-awareness, and professional skill set.

Year 1:

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.

Year 2:

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.

Years 3 and 4:

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.

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 is March 31 prior to your 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

We are currently reviewing Bonner Leader applications of students who are enrolling for the Fall 2021 school year.


For more information on the Bonner Leaders Program, contact:

Kristin Osipower
Bonner Coordinator