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Bonner Leaders and a Mission to Serve

Each year a group of 10 to 15 first-year students join the Bonner Leaders Program after a competitive application process emphasizing service and leadership. Housed in the Campus Y, the flagship UNC Bonner Leaders Program is part of a nationwide network of more than 80 colleges and universities.  The program provides service-based stipends or internships and leverages federal community service work-study funds to support intensive undergraduate community service and social justice activities throughout students’ college careers. This year marks ten years at UNC and seven cohorts will have graduated from the program in May.

“This year has given me the perspective of what service looks like virtually. Before this year, I have only done service work in-person. This year has given me the knowledge of ideas and ways we can still participate in service work, even if it is solely through our computer screens. Additionally, this year has reinforced my view of how integral community is in service work. Not seeing people for a year can make it difficult to make connections and build community. Humans are social beings, and we need others to feel loved, heard, and supported."

Ellison Commodore '22

Bonner Leaders engage students in addressing community-identified needs. They initially work as direct-service volunteers, grow into project and site coordinators, and ultimately engage in public policy and community-based research. Currently, there are 45 UNC Bonners Leaders working with 15 nonprofits in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham as literacy tutors, youth mentors, hunger relief volunteers, community outreach coordinators, cultural heritage preservationists, and innovators in launching programming to augment existing community services.

Students start the program as direct-service volunteers as first-years and grow into project leaders, public policy advocates, and community-based researchers during the four-year partnership.

The service requirement is significant – more than 250 hours per year – and is complemented by weekly meetings, leadership workshops, and capacity-building seminars. It is a campus-wide, interdisciplinary initiative involving both Student Affairs and Academic Affairs.

If you are interested in offering additional resources such as mentorship, hosting a summer intern or hosting a Bonner fundraising event in your community, please contact campusy@unc.edu.

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