Bonner Leader program to undergo restructuring

Madison Martin

A group of 11 students are working tirelessly to aid Bowling Green area partners. They are the Bonner Leaders and Volunteers, students who engage in meaningful service while receiving financial assistance.

However, after less than five years on the Hill, the Bonner Leader program is now set to undergo changes.

“We basically want to build a program that allows for a little more flexibility, and also for students to have as well-rounded of a college experience as they want to have while still being able to serve,” Leah Ashwill, the director of the ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships, said. 

WKU is one of 39 campuses utilizing the Bonner Leader program in their community. Leaders currently dedicate 280 hours per year toward service work, training and enrichment, while Volunteers clock in 100. 

With the restructured program, the number of service hours required will be decreased, and the amount of university financial assistance will be proportional to reflect this change. How these changes will affect current Bonner Leaders has yet to be finalized. 

Additionally, the program will offer the scholars the ability to earn course credit from their service work. Program leaders have not decided whether this will be mandatory or strongly encouraged.  

“The idea is that we want students applying what they’re learning in the classroom in real-world settings; we want them solving public problems through the application of their coursework,” Ashwill said.

Despite these alterations, the ideals behind the Bonner Leader Program will remain the same even if the name of the program does not, according to Ashwill. 

“We look for students who have been in leadership positions before, who have volunteered before,” said Aurelia Spaulding, Bonner program manager and communications and marketing coordinator at the ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships. 

The idea is to bring in students who qualify for Federal Work-Study and have demonstrated a commitment to service throughout their high school years. 

Becca Haynes, a Jamestown  sophomore and Bonner Leader, decided to apply to the original program after being involved in organizations like Relay For Life and Operation Christmas Child. Last year, she partnered with HOTEL INC, a nonprofit organization that aids the homeless population of Bowling Green.

“I did not notice how many people were homeless. You think that it’s very minimal, like you barely see any,” she said. “They can just look like regular people.”

As part of their freshman year in the program, Bonner Leaders are able to learn about and volunteer at different organizations in the area. Ideally, they partner with one during their four years in college. 

“I would like for our Bonner Leaders to all graduate having felt like they have impacted the community,” Spaulding said.

Haynes said working with HOTEL INC ignited a passion for serving the homeless.

“We meet tons of different people — different races, different ethnicities, different ages,” Haynes said. “It has definitely helped me with conversations with people.”

Students will also organize issue-based groups to target a specific topic; this year’s focus is on wellness. Site-based groups provide one-time or occasional assistance to other community partners.

“Each person has a role in the community, and we all have a part to do,” Haynes said.