AIF Blog

Bezos Scholars Will Attend Aspen Ideas

May 21, 2018
The 2017 Bezos Scholars pose with Movement Art Is (M.A.I.) co-founders Charles "Lil Buck" Riley and Jon Boogz after a conversation at Aspen Ideas about dance as a platform for social justice.
This June, the Bezos Scholars Program celebrates its 14th year at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Each year, 30 exceptional high school students and educators from across the US and the African Leadership Academy are selected as Bezos Scholars; all begin their program experience in Aspen.
The Bezos Family Foundation launched the Scholars program in 2005 to provide young people a platform to design solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing their communities. Scholars are selected based on demonstrated leadership abilities, willingness to embrace challenges, and the desire to create lasting, positive change in their communities.
The program begins with an all-expenses paid trip to the Aspen Ideas Festival. The week is filled with leadership training, panel discussions, and exclusive conversations with many of the world’s most acclaimed scientists, journalists, artists, and global thought leaders. This experience sets the stage for the challenge ahead: launching sustainable projects, known as Local Ideas Festivals (LIFs), to transform their local communities.
Topics and themes of LIFs are as diverse as the Scholars themselves and designed to align Scholars’ passions with an existing community need. Many address inequities in education, advocating for the rights of minorities and underrepresented communities, and the need to create space for civil discourse. Festivals are designed to be sustainable, and several are now in their seventh year, including the South African Ideas Festival in Johannesburg run by the African Leadership Academy Scholars. Since the program’s inception, nearly 50,000 attendees have participated in these change projects. 
 “We are so pleased by the caliber and breadth of the work these young people have already done in their communities,” says Nicole Hanson, Youth Leadership Manager at the Bezos Family Foundation.  “We look forward to seeing the positive contributions they will make in the coming year.” 
The Foundation is honored to welcome the 2018 Scholars:
Alex Bremer and Lori Flynn Pomeroy High School: Pomeroy, WA
Amy Exposito and Colleen Murray Amundsen High School: Chicago, IL
Brandon Plowman and Aaron Atkinson West Valley High School: Cottonwood, CA
Christian Alexander and Victoria Kratz Hawthorne Math & Science Academy: Hawthorne, CA
Cindy Aguilar-Castaneda & Candice McFarland Camacho Gonzales High School: Gonzales, CA
Cole Fairchild and Matt Shields Charlottesville High School: Charlottesville, VA
Hoang Le and Kevin Varano Harrisburg High School SciTech Campus: Harrisburg, PA
Makayla Dawkins and Dominique Argo James Hillhouse High School: New Haven, CT
Matthew Garcia and Jose Becerra Harlingen School of Health Professions: Harlingen, TX
Mayowa Jolayemi and Christina Moreau Gahr High School: Cerritos, CA
Mishka Banuri and Crystal King West High School: Salt Lake City, UT
Style Ranger and Jake Winfield ASU Preparatory Academy: South Phoenix: Phoenix, AZ
Jelissa Kamguem African Leadership Academy: Johannesburg, South Africa; Cameroon
Jonathan Banza African Leadership Academy: Johannesburg, South Africa; Democratic Republic of the Congo
Rutendo Njawaya African Leadership Academy: Johannesburg, South Africa; Zimbabwe
Salome Maina African Leadership Academy: Johannesburg, South Africa; Kenya
Samkelo Ntetha African Leadership Academy: Johannesburg, South Africa; South Africa
Tsion Tesfaye Educator: African Leadership Academy: Johannesburg, South Africa; Ethiopia 
Nicole Hanson is manager of youth leadership at the Bezos Family Foundation.