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Youth Leadership Programs Manager
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Announcing 2018 Bezos Scholar Cohort

The Bezos Scholars Program (BSP) is proud to announce the 2018 Scholars, selected from an especially competitive group of applicants. This year’s cohort—comprised of rising high school seniors and an educator from each school—will design and lead change projects in their communities.  

The 2018 applicant pool was the most competitive in program history, drawing the largest number of candidates, with applicants from nearly every U.S. state. Scholars are selected based on demonstrated leadership abilities, willingness to embrace challenges, and the desire to create lasting change in their communities.

"We are pleased and honored to work with this incredible, diverse group of leaders from communities around the country and across the globe," says Nicole Hanson, Youth Leadership Manager at the Bezos Family Foundation. "Each Scholar contributes a unique perspective and set of ideas to the program, but all share remarkable ability, demonstrated leadership, and a passion for positively contributing to their community."

The Bezos Family Foundation annually selects rising public high school seniors who apply with an educator partner to the year-long leadership development program, founded in 2005. The program begins with an all-expenses paid trip to the Aspen Ideas Festival. After attending the Festival, Scholars return home to organize their own community change projects, known as Local Ideas Festivals (LIFs).

The Scholars' varied interests and passions shine through their LIF, which also intersect with the unique opportunities and needs of their communities. Though the possibilities are limitless, previous LIFs have centered on topics like the arts, global issues, the environment, education, health, and civic engagement. Since the program’s inception, roughly 48,000 attendees have participated in a LIF.

The Bezos Family Foundation is honored to welcome the following 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 and 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 John Tarka: 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     

Over the next year, these Scholar teams will create their own LIF to effect positive change in their communities. Recent LIFs have included a substance abuse initiative in Colorado, events connecting youth with local culture and identity in South Texas, and a music festival supporting music education in local schools in Virginia which celebrated its seventh year. More examples of previous LIFs can be found here.

Contributed by
Youth Leadership Programs Manager
Community & News

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