As the Aspen Ideas Festival returns this June, attendees will include 30 exceptional high school students and educators from across the United States and Africa—the 2023 cohort of the Bezos Scholars Program. These student Scholars are some of the youngest attendees at the festival every year, and they are eager to learn, network, and hear from some of their favorite thinkers, leaders, and activists while in Aspen.
The Bezos Family Foundation founded the Bezos Scholars Program in 2005 in partnership with the Aspen Institute. The program provides young people, paired with an educator mentor of their choosing, with a platform to design solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing their local areas. Their experience in Aspen sets the stage for the challenge ahead—launching sustainable, transformative community change projects in their hometowns.
“The 2023 cohort of Bezos Scholars are an amazing group of young changemakers from nine states and four countries across Africa,” said Molly Pencke, Bezos Scholars Senior Program Manager at the Bezos Family Foundation. “We are excited to support, learn from, and work alongside such an energized and passionate cohort as they each build a team to design and launch Community Change Projects. In these trying and complex times, we need them now more than ever.”
As part of their participation in the program, Scholars receive more than 40 hours of leadership curriculum, access to Scholar-only notable speaker sessions with inspirational leaders, and $1,000 in seed funding to launch their Community Change Projects with the chance to apply for renewal. Students also receive free one-on-one college advising and, upon program completion, access to unique opportunities offered through the Scholar Alumni Network.
The topics and themes of Scholar projects are as diverse as the Scholars themselves, and are designed to align Scholars’ passions with an existing community need. Many projects address the climate crisis, gender and education equality, financial literacy, and advocating for increased access to opportunities for historically oppressed and underrepresented communities. Since the program’s inception, nearly 200 projects have been launched by Scholars.
The Bezos Family Foundation is honored to welcome the following Scholars:
Student Scholar Aayushi Garg and Educator Sean Lewis
Granada Hills Charter High School, Los Angeles, CA
Student Scholar Rithika Sivapokaran and Educator Emily Rohme
Patchogue-Medford High School, Medford, NY
Student Scholar Amanda Liu and Educator William Truong
Valencia High School, Placentia, CA
Student Scholar Brendan Salisbury and Educator Victoria Muñoz
Barry Goldwater High School, Phoenix, AZ
Student Scholar Breanna Wollman and Educator Kerry Konda
Aberdeen Central High School, Aberdeen, SD
Student Scholar David Muñoz and Educator Aimee Nunez
McAllen Memorial High School – IB Lamar Academy, McAllen, TX
Student Scholar Dyuthi Aryasomayajula and Educator Daniel Giddings
Washtenaw International High School, Ypsilanti, MI
Student Scholar Jessie Jingqi Lin and Educator James Wilson
Los Osos High School, Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Student Scholar Kim Cortes-Martinez and Educator Cyrus Harshfield
Gresham High School, Gresham, OR
Student Scholar Priyanka Gupta and Educator Mary Bishop
Tuscarora High School, Frederick, MD
Student Scholar Victoria Myers and Educator Rhonda Craven
School for the Talented and Gifted, Dallas, TX
Student Scholar Yordanos Lemma and Educator Carmina Taylor
North Penn High School, Lansdale, PA
Student Scholars Ahmed Kabuya, Kuhle Kunene, Rajveer Singh Jolly, Chiagoziem Ikeyi, Nassiratou Djibo and Educator Oluwabusola Oni
African Leadership Academy, Johannesburg, South Africa; Scholars represent their home countries of South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria, and Niger
Thank you for helping us welcome and include these special Bezos Scholars! To see full Scholar biographies and photos, please visit the Meet the Scholars page of the Bezos Scholars Program website.