WKU, ALIVE Center offer scholarship that incorporates community service

Kaely Holloway

The ALIVE center, with help from WKU, has recently started a new scholarship program, incorporating the community into college education.

The Bonner Leadership Scholar Program will offer students, both incoming and currently enrolled, $3,000 toward school in exchange for completion of at least eight to 10 community service hours per week, all four years of enrollment.


This program was created by the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation in the early 1990s, and was tested out first at Berea College. Since then, the program has helped over 2,000 students pay for school. Next year, the ALIVE center and WKU hope to have 10 Bonner scholars. Three have been awarded this semester.

Bowling Green sophomore Mernisa Hrustanovic is one of those three students. She fulfills her community service requirements through the Center for Courageous Kids in Scottsville, Ky. The Center works to aid children and families living with medical challenges.

“In the beginning, I didn’t care where [I volunteered], I just knew I wanted to work with kids,” Hrustanovic said. “This was one of the places that needed help at the time and we’ve developed a good relationship together.”

Those applying must maintain a minimum of a 2.5 GPA, dedicate at least eight to 10 hours a week to community service and be a Kentucky resident. First generation students and those with higher needs for financial aid will be preferred.

Leah Ashwill, director of the ALIVE Center, says the biggest benefit of earning this scholarship is the financial assistance in paying for school, although the community service required is also very beneficial.

“Requiring a service component takes the student out of the classroom to where learning is occurring in the real world,” Ashwill said.

Students who earn the Bonner Scholarship also have an opportunity to apply to earn an AmeriCorps education award. This award can grant a student financial aid of $1,175 or more, which can go toward paying off college debt, existing fees or for other educational purposes.

“Students are getting something back from the experience and getting tangible benefits as people, and as professionals, as they go through the program,” Ashwill said.

Bonner scholars choose their respective places to complete their required community service hours. They seek out the place, based on personal interest or experience, and report back the place they have chosen.

Lee Calvert, a graduate student from Charlotte, N.C. who is working as the program’s coordinator, then sets up an initial, face-to-face meeting to tour the location and describe the program.

“I keep in contact with people at the organizations students are working at and make sure everything is running smoothly and hours are being completed,” Calvert said. “This program is beneficial because students can get a college education, and money to help, but also learn about their community, not just live in it.”