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.
See Bezos Scholar cohorts from past years.
Harborside Academy and Kenosha Boys & Girls Club
Student Scholar • Kenosha, Wisconsin
Recognizing the challenges that her community has gone through, Kayla focuses her time and efforts on making her community and the world a more inclusive and equitable society. Her focus is on mental health and increasing resources for teenagers, acknowledging that there is still a gap in access and opportunities. Kayla was most recently awarded Wisconsin’s Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year. In addition to focusing on community development and mental health resources, Kayla also runs her own business where she offers hair and make-up services.
Educator Scholar • Kenosha, Wisconsin
Felicia Dalton is working to increase access for underrepresented communities by providing youth with life-changing opportunities and experiences through her work at the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha. Felicia is a social worker who went to school with the goal of working with teens at risk, making her role at the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha a dream job. One of the key accomplishments she is most proud of is starting a non-profit focused on supporting students with their post-secondary plans including higher education, workforce preparation and vocational education.
Cedar Hill High School
Student Scholar • Dallas, Texas
Chandler leads with the belief that knowledge is power and creates growth opportunities. These beliefs inspire her to increase and engage others, especially kids and youth, in learning information that will support their development. Chandler, born and raised in Dallas, is the third of six children and grew up in a family that taught her to value and be a champion for equal and civil rights. She is especially passionate about educational equity. Chandler is excited to graduate high school while earning her associate degree and looks forward to competing in an upcoming national softball tournament.
Michael Clear Jr.
Educator Scholar • Dallas, Texas
Inspired by being born and raised in Dallas and as a first-generation college student, Michael found his passion for African American history and culture while studying in college. He incorporates and celebrates this rich history and culture into his teaching and personal life—Juneteenth and Kwanzaa are now annual celebrations. As the chair of an existing mentoring program and current mentor, Michael is passionate about changing the mindsets of young people that he works with daily, working to inspire them to believe that there are no limits in what they could do or become.
Global Leadership Academy
Eduardo Javier Acevedo
Student Scholar • Denver, Colorado
Eduardo is passionate about increasing and sustaining support between his local high school and wider community. He grew up in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood and is fueled by the efforts of his hardworking immigrant parents to thrive in an academic setting. Eduardo is currently maintaining a 4.0 GPA, serving as a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute as an alum, and committing to weekly volunteer service all while working.
Educator Scholar • Denver, Colorado
Taylor is inspired by her experiences growing up in a predominantly Latinx community. Being immersed in rich cultural communities inspired her to teach where she grew up. Her goal as an educator is to increase awareness and opportunity for youth in her community. Taylor’s recent accomplishments include accepting the Outstanding Student in Academics, Leadership, and Service award, receiving three consecutive nominations for Mapleton’s Teacher of the Year, and co-launching a high school volley club.
Governor Thomas Johnson High School
Student Scholar • Frederick, Maryland
Diya is driven by her passion for service in the community and is focused on supporting homeless populations in Frederick where she was born and raised. Some accomplishments she is most proud of include winning America’s Legion Oratorical contest, the Sons of American Revolution Oration contest, and the National History Day and Optimist International Oratorical Contest. Her commitment to community service was affirmed as a recipient of the Girls Scout Gold Award, the highest award given. Diya looks forward to creating opportunities focused on providing hope to her community and continues to work towards being a compassionate, kind and empowered leader focused on lasting change.
Educator Scholar • Frederick, Maryland
Paige is from rural Pennsylvania. Her hometown is considered “Amish Country," home to whoopie pies and bologna! Although she grew up in a small town, that did not stop her from seeing the world. After graduating from college, Paige started her career as a teacher. During her first five years as an educator, she completed her Master’s in Education with a focus on Literacy for Culturally and Linguistically diverse learners. Paige is passionate about equitable education and dedicates her time increasing opportunities and access to them for students most in need in her community.
Harrisonburg High School
Student Scholar • Harrisonburg, Virginia
Anish is passionate about increasing access to STEM education. He is particularly interested in expanding the opportunities for space science and other less accessible fields of STEM for students in his community. Some ways he is tackling this issue are by serving on the leadership board of a local children's museum and the board of his school’s STEM Academy. He is a Virginia Forensics (public speaking) Champion and an intern at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Educator Scholar • Harrisonburg, Virginia
In a world full of diverse voices, Danae is most passionate about using communication skills to participate in social discourse efficiently and ethically. As an English teacher—and most recently taking on the role of debate coach—she hopes to continue to use communication skills to inspire and lead her students in the Harrisonburg City Public Schools, a district with 7,000 students representing 70 languages. Danae is proud to have recently purchased her first home, where she has recently gained a love for backpacking in nearby the Shenandoah Valley.
Idea Weslaco Pike
Student Scholar • Progreso, Texas
Born and raised in Progreso, Ana grew up a few minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border. This allowed her to explore her Mexican roots and gain perspective on the realities of people living in border cities. Ana’s passions stems from these experiences, and she hopes to shift some of the stereotypes portrayed in the media about South Texas communities. Her goal is to share the unique and rich culture of south Texas with the world. Some of her most significant accomplishments are the creation of extracurricular programs for her peers; Ana is the Founding President of several clubs, including one of her favorites, Girls Who Code.
Educator Scholar • Progreso, Texas
Natilisa, also known as Natalie, was born to teen Hispanic migrant parents and grew up speaking Spanglish in her southern border town of Progresso. These experiences taught her to celebrate the beauty of her culture and follow her dreams. Driven by her passion to encourage Hispanic youth to further their education, Natalie teaches AP Calculus and advocates for young girls to pursue education and careers in the STEM fields. She is most proud of overcoming barriers, graduating with her bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics, and purchasing her home by the age of 21. When Natalie is not teaching, she enjoys going to the movie theater and reading books.
Lamar High School
Student Scholar • Houston, Texas
Franklin attends an International Baccalaureate school and enjoys living in one of the most diverse cities in the country, happily exploring different cuisines and cultures. He is passionate about motivating youth to be civically engaged and wants to use policy as a mechanism for change on key issues impacting his community including climate change and gun violence. Franklin is a National Youth Action Team Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. He served as state policy coordinator for March for Our Lives; Business Insider featured him as a Gen Z climate activist in 2021.
Educator Scholar • Houston, Texas
Sally is passionate about teaching the next generation of thought leaders how to solve problems and investigate technology applications. She teaches in one of the most diverse high schools in the country. Over the past four years, Sally has taught nine different courses ranging from Computer Science to Economics to World History. She is currently teaching AP Computer Science Principles and specializes in college-level computer science courses. She loves project-based learning and is always excited to see new projects and ideas that her students come up with!
North Stanly High School
Student Scholar • New London, North Carolina
Abigail is from Stanly County, a rural area in North Carolina home to Morrow Mountain. She is passionate about addressing the challenges of reading comprehension in elementary age children and increasing the appreciation for literary arts. Abigail is proud to have scored in the 98th percentile on the SAT and ACT, currently serves as an attorney for her local Teen Court Program and is on the third draft of what she hopes to be her debut novel.
Tina H. Carter
Educator Scholar • New London, North Carolina
Tina was raised in the small town of Badin and she credits her love for the great outdoors and sports to her positive outlook and creativity. When the pandemic first hit, she worked from home to 3D print face shields to donate to front-line workers, engaging local businesses to help fund the project. Tina’s aim is for all students to understand their personal worth and learn to contribute to our world in a positive, honest and sustainable way with responsibility and integrity. She is a three-time Teacher of the Year and operates under the mantra “You must REACH before you TEACH”. Tina is a member of the Go Global NC Teachers Program and values participating in international immersive learning experiences.
Penn Wood High School
Student Scholar • Lansdowne, Pennsylvania
Nhaomi is a Christian Ghanaian American student from the Philadelphia area who aspires to pursue a career in STEM. She is passionate about fostering change for equitable education and spreading STEM-based opportunities to underrepresented communities. Nhaomi's accomplishments include being an active junior council member in her borough’s local government, getting her driver’s license, and learning to care for her natural hair.
Ava L. Alexander
Educator Scholar • Lansdowne, Pennsylvania
Ava is a former student of the William Penn School District where she has been employed for the past 23 years. Ava is most passionate about changing racial misconceptions and improving miscommunication issues in her community. She sets out to do this by preparing students to assume leadership roles which give back to the community which raised them. She is currently the first full time English instructor of her district’s Cyber Education Program. After graduating high school, Ava attended the Peabody Conservatory of Music on a flute performance scholarship. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Loyola University in Baltimore, MD, and a Master of Science Degree from Lincoln University in Lincoln, Pennsylvania.
Seaside High School
Jacqueline Ballesteros Martinez
Student Scholar • Seaside, California
Jacqueline is a first-generation Mexican American student at Seaside High School. She is president of the Ocean Defenders club where she works with community members and peers to implement beach clean-ups for her community. Jackie is part of the Nationals Honors Society and Latino Club. She works alongside these clubs to engage and involve more students in caring for their community, and the environment. She aims to help them be more conscious and conscientious of how they can tangibly reduce waste and make a positive impact on the climate crisis.
Sarah Lester Guzmán
Educator Scholar • Seaside, California
Sarah grew up on an organic walnut farm in Northern California and has worked in the city of Seaside since 2001. She is a National Board-certified World Language Teacher, teaching Spanish and supporting other educators in a highly diverse coastal community sandwiched between Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the agricultural center of Salinas Valley. Sarah values experiential learning through project-based instruction weaving real-world topics into her Spanish language instruction. During the past couple of years, she has been the ocean guardian lead teacher and participated in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Plastic Pollution and Climate Change Summits. More recently she has been working on educating and implementing waste improvement programs that urge community members to rethink and reduce their plastic consumption.
Union High School
Student Scholar • Camas, Washington
As a first-generation immigrant from Taiwan, Jean has had the wonderful opportunity to grow up surrounded by two cultures. Jean is passionate about connecting youth around the world to empower and help every young person feel like they belong no matter their race, ethnicity or background. Her experience is what sparked her passion for global connection and collaboration. Jean is the founder and CEO of a nonprofit organization called Leaders Across the World which connects youth worldwide to act on critical global issues. Additionally, Jean serves as a four-time State Officer in Future Business Leaders of America.
Educator Scholar • Camas, Washington
Erik grew up in a small, rural town in upper Michigan. The culture he grew up in centered on family and finding a sense of community, two things he treasures and incorporates into his work as an educator. Erik is most passionate about teaching his students the value of community and service to others and focuses on building student skills to improve their lives. The last four years, he has guided students in AP Seminar and AP Research and has helped them overcome challenges and reach their highest potential. Outside of teaching, Erik is the advisor for several student-led community service clubs.
Los Altos High School
Student Scholar • Hacienda Heights, California
Eric lives in Los Angeles where he loves to learn about new cultures by eating various foods and learning new languages. He is extremely passionate about increasing civic engagement and focuses on advocating for social justice issues, like climate change and education reform. He loves storytelling and hearing the perspectives of different people. Eric’s recent accomplishments include consulting for the United Nations where he focused on increasing female turnout in the digital economy within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also worked as a Youth Ambassador to Chile and mentored students in Santiago on environmentally sustainable projects.
Educator Scholar • Hacienda Heights, California
Jessica leads an education foundation in the district she attended as a child is a first-generation college graduate. She is engaged in various community outreach activities such as funding for college scholarships, college fairs, and restorative justice circles. Jessica is passionate about providing college exposure for the underserved students within her community to increase representation and access. Both have played a pivotal role in the success of her own educational journey.
African Leadership Academy
Michael John Olivier
Student Scholar • Cape Town, South Africa
Michael was born and raised in the Cape flats of Cape Town, a township gripped with crime and gang violence. He has first-hand experience recognizing how income inequality impacts society. He is anchored by his faith and driven by his passion to make entrepreneurship accessible to everyone, regardless of economic status or location. Opportunities he has created include school clubs, a YouTube Channel, a podcast and numerous virtual and in-person workshops. When Michael is not focused on bringing entrepreneurial activities to his communities, he spends time socializing and connecting with individuals from a number of different communities at his school.
Mohamed Taha Khorchani
Student Scholar • Medenine, Tunisia
Mohamad, who goes by Taha, is driven by his passion to create high-quality education focused on technology and entrepreneurship for young adults. Born in Medenine, a state which has a Muslim majority, he has appreciated the opportunity to connect with travelers from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds who visit the various religious cities in his hometown. Taha has a knack for memorization and is a two-diploma recipient from the Arabic memory championship and can easily memorize a random list of 100 numbers in a brief period of time.
Rehema Kabunda Nicole Bogita
Student Scholar • Nairobi, Kenya
Rehema, who was born in Nairobi, but has since lived in three countries, is set out to work with, and learn from, diverse leaders around the world to tackle specific needs in her community. Rehema is most passionate about improving education by combining technology and extracurricular activities, like music and sports, to demonstrate to students how they can balance their health and well-being with academics. Rehema is an active feminist and member of the Seventh-Day Adventist church and spends much of her free time participating in team sports and producing her own music. Rehema takes pride in being the 2021 class valedictorian at Braeburn International School, learning how to program in Python, and serving as her field hockey team’s starting player.
Student Scholar • Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania
Wazaino, also known as Wazi, grew up in an under-resourced community and is driven to make a positive impact on education reform. She believes education is one of the most crucial requirements for a child’s growth and development and hopes to help improve education and curriculum in Tanzania. Although not raised in a religious family, she has found comfort and growth in her spiritual journey. Some of her accomplishments include placing second runner-up in a 2019 Girls’ Entrepreneurship Summit, being among the top five winners in the Great Hope Foundation’s Uwezo Awards for community change projects she created, for four consecutive years from 2017-2020 and founding a nursery school for children ages two to six called 4Gates Daycare Centre.
Mohamed Elfaisal Khalid Ahmed
Student Scholar • Khartoum, Sudan
Mohamed, who is also known as Momo, has a passion for politics and is committed to finding lasting solutions to the political instability in Africa, and in particular, his home country of Sudan. Much of his work is invested in advocating for youth voice in politics. Inspired by his mother and father, who is one of the most influential journalists in Sudan and participated in the Sudanese revolution, Momo developed his interest in politics early on by becoming a member of the Sudanese Resistance Committee. Additionally, he has organized peaceful resistance protests to the military rule in Sudan, serves as a Delegate at Khartoum International School, and is a board member of Mojadedon, an organization in Sudan that seeks to find long term solutions for poverty in the region. Momo genuinely believes that leadership is the first step in the recreation of a thriving Africa.
Natalia Maria Sikombe
Educator Scholar • Arusha, Tanzania and Ndola, Zambia
Natalia celebrates the privilege of being raised in two diverse cultures. She was born in a small town in Zambia while being raised by her Tanzanian family and which taught her to value and appreciate diversity. Her work with African Leadership Academy centers around refining the entrepreneurial leadership curriculum and developing the next generation of ethical entrepreneurial leaders. In addition to being an educator, Natalia also uses her education and design-thinking approach to influence the Zambian film industry where she continues to work towards improving workflow systems and producing quality feature films and documentaries. Her goal is to design a film production model that will be used on the African continent to grow the industry and bring economic investments to the world of film.