Centre College’s bicentennial and its 20th anniversary of the Bonner Program were the perfect reasons to host the national Bonner Congress Conference on campus with 150 scholars from the 70 institutions in the network attending. The weekend event consisted of workshops, sessions and social activities around the theme of “Social Justice at the Centre.”
Several community members, national partners, students and staff members spoke, hosted workshops or tabling during the event. President John A. Roush addressed the attendees at the opening session, as well as Rick Axtell, H. W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion, and Rochelle Bayless, founder and executive director of Grace Cafe, Inc.
Centre’s Bonner Program had 10 students on the Congress Planning Team organizing and facilitating the weekend, alongside Sophia Lombardo, coordinator of community service & the Bonner Program and Jessica Weasner, director of community service and Bonner Program. The students who served on the Logistics Committee were Landy Lin ’22, Jeffrey Chan ’20 and Jonathan Gambrel ’22. Those on the Social Committee were Ifeanyi Da Silva ’22, Hannah Di Domenico ’22 and Hanna Montalvo ’22. Students on the Program Committee were Clare Blim ’20, Christy Alfaro ’22 and Aranxa Parra ’22. Nia Dye ’20 also served on the Planning Committee.
The Bonner Congress Conference began in 1998 with the Bonner Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey, working with the institutions in the network. Now, there are over 70-plus Bonner schools across the U.S. and 40-plus send two to four congress representatives to the conference held at different colleges each fall.
“The main goal of the conference is for Bonner students across the Bonner Network to meet and share ideas on social justice and civic engagement,” Lombardo said. “The all-group sessions, strategy sessions and workshops included conversations on social justice and service, and the social activities created a welcoming space to meet each other. There was also a networking fair for Bonners to meet national partners with the Bonner Foundation and hear about graduate school programs that have special scholarships and opportunities..”
Lombardo said the conference was an amazing opportunity not only for visitors on campus to learn about the College and its Bonner Program but also for Centre’s Bonner students to see how impactful the Bonner Network is and learn from other students.
As the College is in its 20th year of the Bonner Program, and getting close to the 30th year of the Bonner Foundation, Lombardo said there will be intentional program changes.
“At Centre, we are focusing on our developmental model and creating a high impact program with the inclusion of a new Bonner Program Handbook and year-long calendar,” she added. “Our Bonner Leadership Team, made up of seven students with specific roles on improving the program, are meeting weekly to support our 50 Bonners with new initiatives and traditions. We are also working on creating a larger presence of service on campus with the Office of Community Service and spending a lot of time on civic engagement and voting.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
October 17, 2019