|History | The Bonner Program|
|History of the Bonner Program
at Centre College
Centre College is part of a national consortium of schools who have partnered with the Bonner Foundation to provide students with access to education and the opportunity to serve. Established in 1991, the national Bonner Foundation is a leading organization in providing service curriculum and support for students at over 50 colleges and universities. You can read more about the national Bonner Foundation and its founders, Caretta and Bertram F. Bonner, by visiting the Foundation's website.
Bonner at Centre College
In 1780 the Virginia Assembly set aside 8,000 acres of land for a "seminary of learning" that would receive its official name and recognition as Centre College in 1819. Centre's mission, articulated and embodied by its founders, is to prepare students for lives of learning, leadership, and service. Civic engagement and community development have been a steady part of the Centre experience ever since. Almost 180 years later, on October 8, 1998, members of the Centre administration joined Mrs. Corella Bonner and Mr. Wayne Meisel for a dinner at the Craik House to discuss Centre's burgeoning involvement with the Bonner Foundation. Following an orientation meeting in Princeton later that year, Centre introduced its first 10 Bonner Leaders in the fall of 1999.
Mrs. Ann Young served as the Bonner Coordinator for the next several years, eventually being succeeded by Ms. Trina McFarland. Under Trina¹s leadership the Bonner Program gained speed and involvement on and off campus. Leaders became increasingly active in the campus community and recognition of the work of involved students increased. Trina encouraged student involvement on a national level and enhanced the commitment of the College to the ideals of the Foundation and its staff. Her commitment to the program has established the foundation for our current success as she was a key player in the process of adding the Scholars program at Centre. Trina moved on to a new role in the spring of 2005, passing the Bonner Program to the current Director. The Bonner Program at Centre College now boasts its largest group of students to date. With twenty leaders and five scholars, and with five more scholars to be added each year for the next five years, the group is strong - and growing.
Selection for the Leader Program has become difficult as large a number of students apply for just a few slots. In the Spring of 2005, twenty four students applied for the four available Bonner Leader spots - the most competitive the program has ever been. It was a difficult task to choose between the many qualified applicants, but a team of Student Life staff members and the Senior Intern worked together to choose those who fit best. Currently the Program bests the institution¹s average of diversity involvement, with four self-identified minorities (African-American, Cambodian, Bengali and Puerto Rican) out of a total of twenty members. Fourteen women and six men are involved in the Leaders Program, which does not mirror the school¹s overall gender breakdown, but is within the desirable range. We will continue to seek out dedicated and qualified men for our Leaders Program, in an attempt to maintain a balanced experience for all. Twelve out of our twenty Bonner Leaders qualify for federal work-study and are lucky enough to have their service sites double as their work-study location. We have several students who are first generation college students, for whom the Bonner Program provides further educational enrichment opportunities.
In the fall of 2005 our Bonner Program has expanded its list of sixteen service sites to include a local senior adult day center and the Kentucky School for the Deaf, where our students work with these exceptional populations. At the day center our Bonner Leader works to coordinate the efforts of her fellow students to provide activities and exercise for the seniors. They play bingo and provide materials for arts and crafts activities in addition to spending quality time with these individuals, listening to the stories of their lives, past and present. At the Kentucky School for the Deaf, several Bonner leaders work with children and young adults who are deaf; several of the students also have some form of mental disability, from autism to cerebral palsy. Working with this school has opened the eyes of students and taught them to value the gifts and abilities they possess. This is a new site this year and one with whom we will continue to partner. During the summer months, our list of service sites expands to include Brooklawn, a home for troubled young boys in Louisville, Kentucky; The Big Creek People in Action, in Caretta, West Virginia; and an educational camp for Haitian refugees in Knoxville, Tennessee. Training and enrichment are on-going for Bonner Leaders at Centre. Weekly all-Bonner meetings focus on business as well as training.
The weekly meeting is the main opportunity for continuous training, while one-on-one meetings and orientation go more in depth. Each semester at Centre is dedicated to one of the six common commitments, so that in an ideal situation, seniors will be revisiting the topics they touched on as freshmen, allowing them to offer a veteran¹s perspective to these freshmen who are new to the program. This schedule allows time to explore the depth of each commitment. In the fall of 2005 members of the Bonner Program have focused on the commitment to diversity - on all levels, not only those we see. We have spent time with a resident of Niger, Africa: a man who brought a completely different understanding of community, faith and purpose, exploring with us the diversity that exists between cultures. Later this fall we will meet with a local imam to discuss the experiences of a Muslim man and his family living in rural Kentucky, and we will visit his mosque. The strongest point of discussion so far has been around the Four Corners exercise which pushes students to take a stand on controversial issues of race, class, and gender and to defend their positions to one another. Journaling and reading are also two critical forms of exploration of our commitments, and Bonner Leaders spend time each month reflecting in these ways. Weekly meetings are critical to this enrichment and therefore are required for all Bonners.
Our enrichment plan is under constant improvement, expansion, and examination.