Scholars Become the Leaders We Need


Bezos Scholars are united by a shared passion for making a difference and a desire to lead change. Scholars seek new challenges and respond with creativity, courage, and commitment. They join the program with different lived experiences, strengths, areas for growth, and unique interests. This diversity is one of our greatest strengths.

Our Scholars travel from across the U.S. and the Africa Leadership Academy to spend a week immersed in learning at the Aspen Ideas Festival and return home to inspire action in their schools, communities, and beyond.


Throughout the year-long program, we aim to build capacities in values-based leadership, social-emotional learning, and social innovation. We’ve aligned outcomes for the program with the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership, a quantitative research program that examines how to leverage learning and development inside and outside of traditional classrooms.

The beauty of the Bezos Scholars Program lies in its use of evidence-based practices: robust curricula, leadership skill building for students, advocacy development for educators, and community engagement to create a powerful learning experience. Impact assessments demonstrate that after the year-long program, Student Scholars yield equivalent or higher learning gains across critical leadership and socio-emotional outcomes than their peers did after a full year of college.

We aim for Student Scholars to make meaningful gains in these leadership outcomes:

  • Sense of Belonging—The Degree to which Students and Educators feel a sense of affiliation and connection to the Bezos Scholars Program and are able to instill a sense of belonging with others.
  • Leadership Efficacy—Internal beliefs Students hold about likelihood of success when engaging in leadership processes.
  • Agency—Ability to start and sustain goal-directed efforts.
  • Resilience—Ability to persist in the midst of adversity and positively cope with stress.
  • Search for Purpose—Meaning-making grounded in the exploration of life’s deeper purpose.
  • Collaboration—Desire and ability to work effectively with others in group processes.
  • Navigating Pathways—Ability to envision multiple pathways to achieve goals.
  • Civic Impact—Taking actions to leave a legacy and enhance the community beyond yourself.

For Educator Scholars, a majority report that the year-long program becomes a memorable and meaningful experience that deepens and/or reignites their passion and commitment to their field. In their role as mentors, advocates, and allies to Student Scholars, we aim for Educator Scholars to make meaningful gains in the following:

  • Sense of Belonging—The Degree to which Educators and Students feel a sense of affiliation and connection to the Bezos Scholars Program and have the ability to instill a sense of belonging with others.
  • Student Advocacy—Educator’s ability to support, amplify, and encourage the development of student voices, ideas, and actions.
  • Student Leadership Efficacy—Educator’s ability to foster a student’s belief in the likelihood of their success when engaging in leadership processes.
  • Student Agency—Educator’s ability to help student start and sustain a goal-directed effort.
  • Student Resilience—Educator’s ability to support students with their capacity to persist in the midst of adversity and positively cope with stress.
  • Student Search for Purpose—Educator’s ability to support students in meaning-making grounded in the exploration of life’s deeper purpose.
  • Student Leadership Skill-Building—Educator’s ability to support the development of a student’s leadership, organization, and project management skills such as:
    • Goal setting
    • Collaboration
    • Cohesive team building
    • Creative problem solving: The ability to foster “possibility thinking” into new and useful ideas
    • Navigating pathways to achieve one’s goals

  • Student Civic Impact—Educator’s ability to foster a student’s belief in the importance of community engagement and desire to leave a legacy of impact that benefits others.

Students and educators selected from the African Leadership Academy
Students and educators chosen from across the United States
Our Scholars bring passion and a fresh perspective to our world’s most pressing issues. This program allows young people and educators to make a lasting change in their communities and the world for years to come. – Jackie Bezos, President, Bezos Family Foundation

Cultivating Big Ideas


Hours of leadership skill-building during the year-long program
World-renowned speakers and leaders who have met with Scholars over the years since 2005

The Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado is an eye-opening experience for Scholars and their educators. Few such events allow young people to engage directly with global thought leaders—from scientists and artists to policy makers and activists. The week is filled with hands-on leadership skill-building, Socratic seminars led by acclaimed moderators, and bonding with fellow Scholars.

Aspen changed me as a leader. It made me 10,000 times more confident in the way I connect with people. – Caitlyn Hess, 2017 Bezos Scholar

Transforming Communities


Upon returning home, Scholars are tasked with developing and executing their own community change project, known as a Local Ideas Festival (LIF). Scholars gain significant personal and team-based leadership skills through this project-based learning experience, which combines their unique passion with addressing a community need. With ongoing support from their educator and school administration, Scholars build a committed team to support their LIF, with a vision of affecting peers, their school, and the broader community for years to come.

Local Ideas Festivals launched since 2005
Global network of Bezos Scholar Students and Educator alumni
People that have attended Local Ideas Festivals across the U.S. and in South Africa since 2005

Local Ideas Festivals are as varied and dynamic as the Scholars themselves. Many Festivals fall into one of the categories below, though we are always excited to see new Festivals break the mold!


Our Scholars embrace the power of the arts as a medium for dialogue, a tool for response and action, and a fun way to engage even the youngest members in the community.

Global Issues

From World Water Week to women’s rights, our Scholars engage and motivate their communities around global issues—building awareness and creating a tangible opportunity for taking action.

Bridge Building

We know we are stronger as a united community. Our Scholars foster civic engagement, embrace culture and diversity, and promote volunteerism.

The Environment

With LIFs celebrating conservation, climate change, and sustainability, our Scholars have demonstrated their heart for preserving the natural world.


Scholars know the importance of meaningful learning experiences, and have built opportunities to increase mentorship, college access, STEAM/STEM, and literacy programs.


Be it mental or physical well-being, our Scholars prioritize healthy life styles and creating community supports for all ages.

Alumni Network

After the year-long program, Bezos Scholars continue to support and inspire one another—and spark positive change in their communities. The program facilitates an active and engaged alumni network, which includes:

  • Fostering leadership and professional development opportunities.
  • Creating networking opportunities with program and foundation partners, as well as with other alumni.
  • Helping alumni host virtual discussions and ongoing regional gatherings.
  • Hosting virtual and in-person alumni reunions.
  • Maintaining relationships with alumni to curate opportunities for them that align with current group needs and interests.

Scholars go on to pursue higher education, take gap years, earn scholarships, travel, volunteer, intern, and launch initiatives, organizations, and businesses. No matter their path, they are all active, engaged global citizens interested in leadership development and taking action for the greater good.

It only takes a few great minds to start changing the world.