BEXLEY, Ohio, April 17, 2018 — Capital University today revealed its inaugural class and outlined the community organizations the students’ efforts will impact in the first year. This comes one year after announcing its formal partnership with The Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation to provide scholarships for lower-income, underrepresented and first-generation students with a passion for community engagement and social justice issues.
The 15 inaugural Bonner Leaders, all set to begin their studies as first-year students at Capital this fall, were selected from an applicant pool of nearly 60 students from as far away as North Carolina. The process included a written application from which a committee selected finalists for in-person or Skype interviews. The final selections were evaluated based on a variety of factors, including social justice focus, past community engagement, financial need, and their sense of purpose to improve the Columbus region and the world.
“Capital’s Bonner Leaders Program helps to ensure that college is a realistic and accessible next step for our prospective students who care deeply about positively impacting neighboring communities while they’re in college, no matter their financial standing,” said Dr. Elizabeth Paul, president of Capital University. “This is an exceptional inaugural class of Bonner Leaders, and we look forward to nurturing them to lead purposeful lives that brighten and empower the communities around them.”
Among the selected Bonner Leaders are eight high school seniors from the Columbus area, including Rebecca Desta of Mifflin High School (see photo above). Desta, who cited in her written application a responsibility to “help the voiceless with their issues and create strategies to help others overcome their adversities,” learned of the Bonner Leaders honor today at a surprise ceremony involving Dr. Paul, as well as the guidance counselor and principal at Mifflin. In addition to the Bonner Leaders scholarship, Desta has also been awarded the I Know I Can Founder’s Scholarship – a full-tuition award.
Following last year’s announcement of the program, Capital identified four Bonner Leaders among existing students to help develop community partnerships and shape the program before launching the full, four-year offering to prospective students. Community partnerships have been forged with St. Vincent Family Center, along East Main Street between downtown and Bexley, and also with Rickenbacker Woods Foundation & Learning Center in the Driving Park neighborhood, just south of Capital’s campus near Interstate 70 and Livingston Avenue. Among Bonner leaders’ first areas of focus will be engaging in tutoring and mentoring of children in the area, including those in the foster care system. As the Bonner program grows and new partners are identified, their focus will expand to include new opportunities for strengthening communities.
“We had such a strong pool of applicants in our first Bonner Leaders recruitment cycle, reinforcing that prospective students are drawn to Capital because they are looking for more than a typical academic experience in their higher education pursuits,” said Mara Stern, director of the Bonner Leaders Program at Capital University, and a former Bonner student at Guilford College in North Carolina. “Empathy and a passion for helping others are characteristics that will guide these students to lead productive lives long after they leave Capital. Being part of that journey and shaping the next generation of ‘change makers’ is a privilege.”
The only central Ohio school with a formal Bonner partnership, and one of just two in the entire state, Capital’s Bonner Leaders Program is a four-year, service-based college scholarship program that affords students access to education and opportunity to learn through deep community engagement. Rather than securing full- or part-time employment while juggling academics, selected students engage in transformative community outreach efforts to both fund their education and make an intentional and lasting impact. Participants commit to roughly 10 hours of community service each week during the academic year, while maintaining a minimum GPA of 2.5. Each student must also complete at least one full-time, service-oriented internship during the summer.