Meet the Scholars

Since 2005, Scholars from across the United States and Africa have raised awareness and mobilized action in their communities and beyond. As Bezos Scholars, students and educators have inspired change on issues such as mental health awareness and advocacy, civic engagement, STEM education, environmental justice, refugee and immigrant rights and much more.

The Cohorts

See Bezos Scholar cohorts from past years.

Granada Hills Charter High School

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Aayushi Garg

Student Scholar • Los Angeles, California

Aayushi is a proud queer, second-generation, South Asian woman who believes everyone ought to have equal opportunities, regardless of class, race or gender. As the daughter of immigrants living in Los Angeles, a city defined by its ever-changing nature, Aayushi is molded by the diversity around her. She thrives when collaborating with others to make change. She describes herself as “someone who’s always looking for the next adventure.” Aayushi is most passionate about engaging young people in social justice initiatives centered around anything from women’s rights to immigrant equity to queer justice. She believes youth must stand up to fight for their future as well as for those that aren't yet able to. As the captain of her Speech and Debate team, and as a leader of the “Girl Up” and “Girls in STEM” clubs at her school, she is proud to support other young women in finding their voice. As a Scholar, Aayushi is “excited to make real change in her community while working with Scholars from around the world and learning from their endless wisdom.”

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Sean Lewis

Educator Scholar • Winnetka, California

Sean brings a wealth of experience and passion to all his pursuits. As a dedicated home cook from Los Angeles, he appreciates that every day provides an opportunity to explore the world through food. As a former journalist and published author, Sean is a literary enthusiast, with a particular admiration for the poetry of Seamus Heaney. Sean's greatest source of pride comes from his role as a parent. With two pre-school-aged children, he is constantly amazed by the wonder and curiosity that they foster. Sean serves as an International Baccalaureate (IB) Coordinator at his school. He firmly believes that empowering students to take ownership of their education is the most valuable gift that a teacher can offer and is invested in helping students find and seize opportunities to do so. As an educator Scholar, he is most “excited about the possibilities for inspiration — both at the Ideas Festival as well as from the student Scholars I’ll get to work alongside."

Valencia High School

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Amanda Liu

Student Scholar • Fullerton, California

Amanda is a first-generation Chinese American who is passionate about women’s empowerment through uplifting marginalized groups. She cherishes her compassionate and diverse community, hoping to help members grow by supporting them in pursuing new endeavors. She is the founder and leader of ‘Empower by Hour,’ a nonprofit organization dedicated to tackling social issues through cultural narratives and storytelling campaigns. In honor of Women's History Month, Amanda led the #HighSchoolGirlBoss Campaign, impacting thousands of students globally through educational panels and gatherings on issues such as period poverty and sexual violence. Beyond her advocacy, she is a nationally ranked orator and Latin dance performer. Amanda is currently focused on the intersectionality of culture and mental health and strives to de-stigmatize crucial conversations for change. As a Scholar she is, “excited to develop ideas and goals to best advocate for my community and I look forward to connecting with the scholars and forming lifelong friendships!”

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William Truong

Educator Scholar • Placentia, California

William, who goes by Will, is the child of Vietnamese immigrants and is grateful for opportunities to successfully lead wherever life takes him. In his free time, he enjoys staying active with his dog and exploring different restaurants, especially food trucks. Before becoming the assistant principal at Valencia, Will was a student and then taught at the school. In these various roles over the last two decades, Will has developed a deeper level of ownership and care for his school community. Will believes that in a world that is changing at an increasingly rapid rate, education must adapt to support and help all students be successful. As a leader, he works hard to not allow obstacles, barriers and anxiety to prevent meaningful actions and empower others to take risks. As an educator Scholar he is, “excited to support Amanda as we launch our Community Change Project and am hoping to learn and be inspired by the talented students and educators who are part of the program.”

Barry Goldwater High School

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Brendan Salisbury

Student Scholar • Desert Hills, Arizona

Brendan is an Arizona native with a myriad of interests — he is a cowboy who rides horses, a competitive hip hop dancer, a vocalist, fluent Spanish speaker, and Eagle Scout who achieved rank at the age of 14, which included fulfilling leadership roles and completing a comprehensive service project. He takes great joy in the ability to be a part of so many amazing communities and hopes to never lose the multicultural upbringing he’s been so blessed to have. For the last two years, Brendan has been part of the All-State Show Choir of Arizona which combines his passions for singing and dancing. Brendan is also a passionate advocate for mental health awareness aiming to destigmatize mental illness and re-empower the next generation to learn how to take care of themselves and others. Long-term he envisions creating a joint foundation between state hospitals and their respective neurological institutes to create research and holistic treatment centers for those with neurodevelopmental disabilities across the nation. As a Scholar he is, “ecstatic to not only make an impact on my community but take part in an international effort to improve our world. I cannot wait to see what Scholars are able to accomplish this coming year."

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Victoria E. Muñoz

Educator Scholar • Glendale, Arizona

Victoria, who goes by Vicky, was born in El Salvador and moved to the United States when she was 14. Hearing other languages and having access to a variety of international foods is a part of her daily life as her community is made up of diverse cultures, celebrations and traditions where kindness can be found everywhere. Vicky is an IB Spanish Teacher and World Languages Department Chair at her school. As a world learner with a growth mindset, she has taken students abroad, and seeing their love of the Spanish language while learning new ways of life and traditions has been very special to her. She enjoys facilitating discussions about social issues with her students that matter to them and as the Eco-Squad sponsor at her school, Vicky is inspired by how much youth care about the environment. As a Scholar, she is, “excited to learn and be inspired by the amazing scholars, educators and staff in the program.”

Aberdeen Central High School

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Breanna Wollman

Student Scholar • Bath, South Dakota

Breanna’s parents grew up in a conservative Hutterian community where children typically did not attend school away from home. Breanna is the first in her family to attend high school and will be the first to attend college in the near future. In her leadership journey, she learned that kindness and determination contribute to her ability to raise awareness as a proactive community advocate. Breanna is the South Dakota State Champion in Original Oratory and a Public Speaking National Champion for Future Business Leaders of America. Outside of her studies, Breanna enjoys serving in the Student Senate and volunteering with the National Honor Society. Breanna is most passionate about using her gifts in communication to interrupt and prevent gender-based discrimination and the stigma surrounding menstruation. She now holds the honorary title of the first ever Bezos Scholar selected from South Dakota! As a Scholar, she is, “proud of her ability to tell stories and hopes to create meaningful connections with others to design tangible solutions to the issues plaguing society today.”

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Kerry Konda

Educator Scholar • Aberdeen, South Dakota

Kerry grew up in rural South Dakota on a small family farm where they raised cattle, sheep and pigs. Farm work from an early age developed his tireless work ethic and passion to help others due to his parents’ example. Kerry is married to his partner of 11 years, Brittany, and they have two active and incredible sons together. As a family, they enjoy exploring nature and all the animals they find when adventuring. In the past three years, Kerry has completed several half marathons and is looking forward to continuing to run in more races this season. Kerry became an educator to foster the empowerment of young changemakers because he believes education is the key to strengthening communities and society into more accepting and better places to live. As an American History and Honors Debate Teacher, creating opportunities for students to excel drives him to better his craft. As the school’s Speech and Debate Coach, Kerry is usually found learning about and prepping for the next debate topic. As a Scholar educator, he is, “excited to work with my students to create a project that can create positive and lasting change in our community.”

McAllen Memorial High School — Lamar Academy

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David Arturo Muñoz Matta

Student Scholar • McAllen, Texas

David was raised by his amazing mother, a single parent, and is a first-generation Mexican American with a passion for finance and business. In his community in the Rio Grande Valley, most people identify as Hispanic and there is a strong intersection of Texan and Mexican cultures. David is president of the tutoring and music clubs at his school, works at Whataburger, and has a love for politics. David is proud to be part of the IB program at Lamar Academy, a program of McAllen High School, and is passionate about helping low-income people gain access to educational resources so they can fulfill their dreams and potential. For the last three years he has served as a United Way volunteer with the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program, helping families file their taxes for free. David wants to teach young people financial literacy, so they know how to budget and manage their money with the long-term goal of helping them end cycles of generational poverty. As a Scholar he, “hopes to acquire stronger leadership skills and better understand the problems afflicting today’s world.”

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Aimee Nunez

Educator Scholar • Mercedes, Texas

Born and raised in a border town in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), Aimee grew up with an appreciation for her Mexican heritage and witnesses the grit and determination RGV folks embody every day. Aimee was the first-born of two young migrant farm workers and was raised to value family and education. Her parents worked hard to make it out of the fields, earned their GEDs and instilled in her a passion for learning and pursuing a higher education. Aimee and her husband of 23 years both work in service-oriented professions and believe strongly in working to support youth in their community. They are also proud parents to two children. Reflecting on her own experiences in navigating the college application process as a first-generation college student, Aimee decided to transition into a college counselor role. Now as the College Admissions and Scholarship Specialist at Lamar Academy, she believes that every student has a unique journey to travel after high school and is excited to help them discover what that is. As a Scholar she is, “excited to grow in my professional capacity as this unique opportunity will allow me to sharpen skills that I can apply in my work with students.”

Washtenaw International High School

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Dyuthi Aryasomayajula

Student Scholar • Ann Arbor, Michigan

Dyuthi lives in a culturally rich community and attends a school that prides itself on its diversity. As a first-generation Indian American, these settings have provided an eye-opening worldview into the influence that different societal factors and environments can have on individuals. Being a social butterfly, Dyuthi consistently seeks out new ways to engage with others to improve society. Dyuthi incorporates a holistic lifestyle that extends into her community, as seen in her passionate advocacy for mental health, well-being and equity. Aside from refining herself as a Kuchipudi dancer and musician, she became a certified yoga teacher in recent years and is on a mission to reframe her generation’s view on yoga by reinforcing the idea that yoga is an effective practice and truly can work for everyone. She intends to create this shift in perspective through a modern take on the practice to improve the mental and physical health of society. Dyuthi also started a committee within her school’s student government to center practices on equity, diversity and inclusion. Dyuthi is, “thrilled to be a Bezos Scholar as I will get to work with dedicated visionaries. I look forward to bonding with and getting inspired by the cohort.”

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Daniel Giddings

Educator Scholar • Ypsilanti, Michigan

Daniel, who goes by Dan, was raised in a family of educators, and discovered his passion for teaching early in life. As Lead Teacher and Diploma Program Coordinator at his school, Dan works in a unique environment dedicated to providing middle and high school students with alternative education options. This includes International Baccalaureate (IB) programming, early college alliance, and hybrid online and in-person curriculum. As a dedicated educator, Dan works to change students’ perception of math and build a better understanding of the role math plays in their lives outside of the classroom. Dan is part of the Decision Education Fellowship where he has worked to expand and challenge the ideas and concepts he brings to his classroom. In addition to teaching, Dan is in his third year of coaching his daughter’s travel basketball team. As an educator Scholar he is most looking forward to, “connecting with fellow educators and students from across the nation and world to bring their experiences and expertise back to my students and school.”

Los Osos High School

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Jessie Jingqi Lin

Student Scholar • Rancho Cucamonga, California

Residing in the largest county in the United States, Jessie has come to find San Bernardino a place indescribable by just a singular term. At school, Jessie eagerly fosters hour-long debates with friends and at home, she speaks Cantonese with her family of three. Coming home to her mom’s homemade soups always makes her feel loved. Jessie recently began healing from a knee injury and is on her way to rekindle her love for running. She is also starting to draft her next oil painting, a family portrait for the entryway in her home. Jessie is passionate about menstrual health resource access and believes that inequity marks this issue as one of the greater neglected human rights issues in the world. Jessie aspires to help alleviate the difficult circumstances some menstruating individuals face and as a Scholar is eagerly anticipating, “the opportunity to meet brilliant minds across the nation and sea. I hope to emerge as a community leader alongside these peers and while becoming acquainted with and impacted by diverse perspectives.”

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James R. Wilson

Educator Scholar • Rancho Cucamonga, California

James is the youngest of five and has four sisters. Growing up, his family valued sticking together and standing up for those who could not stand up for themselves. He believes this foundation is where his need to do something when he learns about an injustice comes from. James graduated from college with a degree in film and digital media. He is a first-year teacher, landing his dream job as a photography instructor, and is also the assistant advisor for the Associated Student Body student government, an advisor for “No Place for Hate” club, and coaches track and field and basketball. James is passionate about eliminating implicit bias and prejudice based on race and religion as well as advocating for women’s rights — especially women having control over their own bodies. As an educator, he aims to ensure every person feels comfortable and safe in their own skin, starting with his classroom and community. As an educator Scholar he, “hopes to gain new skills and knowledge that he can apply to his work while building relationships and networks that could lead to future opportunities.”

Gresham High School

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Kim Cortes-Martinez

Student Scholar • Gresham, Oregon

Kim identifies as a first-generation Mexican American queer woman whose passion is to elevate underrepresented voices. The Portland metro area where she lives is beginning to amplify the diverse communities it houses and is rich with Latinx culture and excellence. Kim's family is constantly looking for the best food spots, but nothing beats her mom’s cooking. Kim enjoys spending time outdoors as a camp counselor and is an avid hiker, as connecting with nature reminds her of her home country of Mexico. Kim is passionate about using restorative justice, community dialogue and prevention methods to decrease the number of young people in juvenile detention centers across the nation. Kim’s passion is demonstrated in the extensive community work she does and the connections she forms. At school, Kim is the director of a leadership program called Renaissance, which aims to celebrate students and appreciate the various identities of the student body. In addition, Kim is a co-chair for the Multnomah Youth Commission and a member of Youth Against Violence, a sub-committee of the commission that works closely with local law enforcement and the juvenile justice system in her county. As a Scholar she is, “excited to expand on the work I've been doing in my community. I always strive to make a place better than how I found it, and this will help me accomplish that!”

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Cyrus Harshfield

Educator Scholar • Gresham, Oregon

Growing up in the small, tight-knit coastal community of Newport, Cyrus learned the importance of building relationships and showing love for family and friends. Living in Gresham for the last 20 years, a large and diverse suburban area outside of Portland, has shown him what a welcoming and hard-working community looks like. Some of his favorite activities are spending time with family and friends, being outdoors in the beautiful Oregon forests and waterways, attending the Saturday farmers market and listening to live music. His personal goals are to always strive to be his best self, continue to help others and travel throughout the U.S. and internationally. Cyrus is passionate about building positive relationships with students and supporting them as they grow into adulthood. He has been a high school science educator for 21 years and is an accomplished AP Chemistry instructor. In addition to teaching, he supports students in the development and implementation of science fair projects and coaches the boys tennis team. Cyrus recently completed an equity certificate program and is excited to implement culturally responsive practices in his classroom. As an educator Scholar he is, “very excited to support my student, Kim, as she develops and implements a project to help improve our community.”

Tuscarora High School

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Priyanka Gupta

Student Scholar • Frederick, Maryland

Priyanka is an Indian immigrant who moved to the United States with her family at a very young age. Despite facing cultural differences, she quickly adapted to her new home and immersed herself in the local community. As a student-athlete, Priyanka is a state-level tennis player who is proud of her growth on and off the court. Priyanka is determined to make a positive impact in her community and is actively involved in various clubs and volunteer organizations to inspire others to become involved. She noticed disparities in resources and support for students in STEM-related academics and aims to create more inclusive and equitable environments. She is, “excited to be a Bezos Scholar to meet more amazing, driven students with similar passions to mine. I can't wait to learn to be a better leader and role model in my community!”

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Mary Bishop

Educator Scholar • Frederick, Maryland

Mary is a former IT professional who found her true passion in education. She describes her community of Frederick as a vibrant town, close to mountains and the Appalachian Trail. In her free time, Mary enjoys camping, golf, listening to music and spending time with her husband. After teaching elementary school for eight years, where she founded the first coding and computer science club for grades 3 to 5, she transitioned to teaching high school computer science. Mary’s passion is to strengthen and widen the pipeline to computer science at Tuscarora High. She founded and is faculty advisor of the Computer Science Honor Society and runs coding clubs at her high school’s feeder middle schools. She enjoys seeing students succeed as well as growing her own technical skills. As an educator Scholar she is, “excited for the opportunity to serve alongside Priyanka as she grows her leadership skills and works to better our community.”

Patchogue-Medford High School

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Rithika Sivapokaran

Student Scholar • Medford, New York

As a Sri Lankan-American, Rithika is proud to be the first from both sides of her family to receive an American education. Her diverse school community has immense ‘PM Pride’ as homecoming, athletics, academic excellence and service to others show up throughout maintaining an engaged community. Rithika loves Marvel movies and traveling and is also interested in studying computer science and chemistry. She is passionate about helping young women feel empowered in their endeavors, especially those wanting to enter male-dominated fields as well as equity in education and mental health awareness. Throughout high school, Rithika has been heavily involved in various clubs and leadership positions — she has been president of her class for the last three years and was instrumental in working with the school guidance department to promote mental health awareness through the newly founded “emPowering Minds” club. As the club president, she helps educate students and staff on the importance of self-care, mental health issues and other social-emotional learning topics. Rithika is, “thrilled to be a 2023 Bezos Scholar, meeting the rest of the cohort and learning new ways I can help my community!”

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Emily Rohme

Educator Scholar • Patchogue, New York

Emily comes from a strong Irish-Catholic family and is proud to have been born and raised in the Patchogue-Medford community. She enjoys spending time with her siblings, niece and nephew, and taking her two dogs for hikes around Long Island or going on a long run. Emily refers to her school as “her home” and shared that no one does homecoming like Patchogue-Medford which is an annual event that the community puts a lot of PM pride and love into. As a school counselor, Emily finds purpose in encouraging students to commit to their ideas and pursue their passions. She is also an advocate for mental health awareness and social-emotional learning. With her student, Rithika, she helped implement “emPowering Minds,” a mental health and awareness school club that encourages and promotes awareness through public service announcements. The club has flourished and has even spread to various middle schools within the district. Emily is, “ecstatic to be a part of the Bezos Scholar Program and as an educator, hopes to become a stronger leader and a reliable role model for all my students and colleagues.”

School for the Talented and Gifted

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Victoria Myers

Student Scholar • Dallas, Texas

Victoria has family from Panama and Barbados who were artisanal wood carvers and hopes to visit their hometown one day. She enjoys focusing her energy and time on academic and communal activities such as robotics club, track and field, and camp counseling at the American Diabetes Association summer camp and Girl Scouts. She is proud of being elected as the National Hispanic Institute’s Youth Legislative Session Speaker of the House and a member of the secretariat for Global Elementary Model United Nations. She also placed first in her district for the 400-meter dash in track and field. Victoria is passionate about improving environmental health and is considering becoming involved in politics in the future. Currently, she is focused on a project she launched to clean and beautify a slave cemetery in her local community. It’s important to her to preserve that history and honor lives lived and lost during a dark time in American history. Victoria is, “excited to be a Bezos scholar to have the opportunity to collaborate with other peers my age and execute projects that will benefit our local and global communities.”

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Rhonda Craven

Educator Scholar • Dallas, Texas

Rhonda was born and raised in Dallas, an extremely diverse community where you can find something for everyone — from great restaurants and shopping to art and entertainment. Rhonda and her husband are the proud parents of a college-aged son. Rhonda is passionate about waste reduction, especially because Dallas residents use a lot of single use plastics and could recycle more. As a mathematics teacher, she is proud to be a positive influence in the lives of her students. It meant the world to her when she recently got a message from a past student, who shared she helped him build the confidence to pursue his path having recently gotten accepted into a nuclear engineering doctoral program. As a Scholar she is, “so excited to get to experience this with my student, Victoria, and know we will be able to use the things we learn as Scholars throughout our lives and careers.”

North Penn High School

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Yordanos Lemma

Student Scholar • Hatfield, Pennsylvania

Yordanos is a first-generation Ethiopian American and takes great pride in her heritage and cultural identity. Within the Ethiopian community, there is a collaborative culture that places great value on mutual aid and a sense of belonging. These shared values foster unbreakable bonds and highlight the importance of creating unity rather than focusing on differences. As a first-generation student raised in a bilingual household, she recognizes the crucial role of providing all students with fair and equal access to education. Yordanos’ greatest passion is in promoting and advocating for educational equity and she takes pride in using her voice to promote positive change. As a participant in Citizen University’s Youth Collaboratory, she spent last year learning how to build civic power for good. It was a deeply rewarding experience providing Yordanos with the opportunity to expand her social network and develop personally. As a Scholar she is, “very excited to develop meaningful relationships with other Scholars, especially connecting with and learning from the African Leadership Academy Scholars.”

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Carmina Taylor

Educator Scholar • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Carmina’s grandfather was a Baptist preacher and civil rights leader who founded a branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her mother followed his commitment to civil and human rights by serving as a leader at the same NAACP, and in 2019, Carmina became the chapter’s president. Her family’s spirit of advocacy and legacy of serving others is what she is most proud of. Carmina is a consultant for Montgomery County Cultural Proficiency and Equity Student Ambassadors (CPESA) Program in partnership at North Penn High School. In 2020, Carmina founded a statewide advocacy group, the “We Can't Wait PA Statewide Coalition” and coalesced community leaders from rural communities to join other leaders from the suburbs and cities. She is regarded for her relentless pursuit of ensuring young people are exposed to opportunities that uplift and grow their intellect and is a fierce advocate for the most marginalized students across Pennsylvania. As a Scholar she is, “so excited to be working with Yordanos in manifesting my life’s public education advocacy work in Montgomery County. It’s a perfect time to actualize all our passions to serve others in a real impactful way!”

African Leadership Academy

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Ahmed Kazadi Kabuya

Student Scholar

Ahmed grew up in the Maheba Refugee Camp in Zambia with parents who were refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Established in the 1970s, it is a large, longstanding camp of low-income families who have little to no opportunities for advancing education and career aspirations. Despite being from a place with many social and economic hardships, his community played a significant role in shaping him into a dedicated and hardworking leader. Outside of academics, he enjoys soccer, biking and knitting. He likes knitting because it presents him with an opportunity to reflect on his day and set intentions on what he hopes to achieve. Ahmed is passionate about community change and development and wants to strengthen his ethical leadership skills so he can make a long-lasting impact. Ahmed started a project that still operates within his refugee community called “Young Pioneers of Change” that empowers youth through helping them identify and grow their talents and skills with a focus on creating an inclusive environment that accepts everyone regardless of their differences. As a Scholar, he is really excited about, "the leadership experience I will gain and the strong networks I will build from this program."

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Chiagoziem Regina Ikeyi

Student Scholar

Chiagoziem, who also goes by Regina, comes from a vibrant and community-centered Igbo society in a diverse region in Eastern Nigeria. She is an aspiring artist and computer scientist who loves helping people from underprivileged communities. Problem-solving and being able to explore the many diverse cultures of the world ignites her curiosity and inspires her to take action. Chiagoziem is driven by her will to improve the living conditions of disadvantaged children, as well as female sexual and gender-based violence survivors in her communities. She is proud to have started an online book drive to provide educational resources for children in her village and to have launched an art community that uses art to raise funds for those in need, mostly recently for the Students Rebuild Welcoming Refugee Project. As a Scholar, she is, “excited to join a community of young diverse leaders who are eager to grow and serve their communities while developing my intellect and socio-emotional intelligence.”

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Kenesa Tamiru Huluka

Student Scholar

Kenesa is from the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia, a community that deeply values its rich cultural heritage. Oromo culture emphasizes collective responsibility and is guided by the principle of Safuu — a deep sense of moral honor and accountability, promoting justice and harmony with nature. The Oromo have a distinctive practice known as Siinqee, a socially sanctioned set of rights exercised by women that exemplifies their commitment to gender equality. Kenesa firmly believes in the transformative power of gratitude, which enhances well-being, resilience, and relationships. It serves as his guiding principle, nurturing joy and a positive perspective when facing life's challenges. Kenesa is passionate about revolutionizing Africa’s financial landscape by advocating for the widespread adoption of digital currency. He believes that embracing digital currency can combat corruption, reduce currency inflation, and create a more transparent and accountable financial system. He is also an education innovator. In high school, he was part of a team that developed and implemented a computer-based visual aid learning system, reshaping the way physics and other subjects are taught. This led to notable academic improvements and sparked a newfound passion for learning among students. As a Scholar he is excited to “enhance my collaborative abilities and nurture my creativity while making the most of the privilege to learn from and be mentored by inspiring individuals who are making transformative change in our world.”

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Nassiratou Ali Djibo

Student Scholar

Where Nassiratou is from in Niger, there is a diverse mix of cultures and traditions, with most people speaking three to four or more languages. In her home community, there are many traditional events that gather people together to strengthen bonds. One of her favorites is a naming ceremony, where the community comes together when a newborn is given its name. Nassiratou believes in the unlimited potential of youth and is passionate about solving economic problems through empowering youth. In 2021, she founded the Matassa Project, an organization that supports youth in coming up with solutions to challenges that exist within their community. So far, Matassa has engaged more than 100 youth in volunteering, increasing their leadership and initiating projects to impact their communities. One youth-initiated project aimed to improve the success rate of students passing national exams by creating a website full of free resources. As a Scholar Nassiratou is, “most excited to grow and learn from other passionate people who want to make change in their community while employing what I learn to make innovative changes in my own community.”

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Oluwabusola Oni

Educator Scholar

Oluwabusola, who goes by Busola, is Yoruba from the West of Nigeria, a community of people who love education, food and generosity. She strongly identifies with her faith community in South Africa, a group of dedicated women who meet frequently to pray, chat and have fun together. In 2021, she became a mom and authored her first book, a memoir. Both ‘babies’ hold a special place in her heart. Busola is keen to see Africa reach its fullest potential through its young people. She is the acting Head of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Department at ALA and runs a non-profit in Nigeria that has trained more than 2,500 teenagers on leadership, entrepreneurship and technology skills. She is passionate about innovation, youth and education and aims to provide opportunities for teenagers in low-income schools so they can access skills that make them ready for their futures. As an educator Scholar she is, “excited to be a part of a global community of changemakers, especially the opportunity to support young people on their leadership journey to create lasting impact.”