A year that shapes you for life.
You’ll gain experience, expand what you know, and encounter people, places, and ideas that will inspire, challenge and support you as you help change your community for the better.
A serious commitment with lasting rewards.
Bezos Scholars are all-in and hands-on. A Bezos Scholars year is filled with focused work and extraordinary experiences. You’ll hit the ground running by building connections with your fellow Scholars and other fascinating people at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June. From there, you’ll stay engaged every step of the way, right up through the launch of your community change project. In the process, you’ll think, learn and grow in new ways.
For Scholars and educators alike, the program entails a busy year of learning, connecting, reflecting and making change, at a time when students are also busy applying to college and completing their high-school experiences.
Bezos Scholars and educator scholars are committing to:
Dedicate between eight and 20 hours per month
These include several two- to-three-hour virtual workshops per month along with monthly activities and assignments. As the year progresses, program work becomes increasingly self-directed.
Experience the Aspen Ideas Festival
in Aspen, Colorado, for a full week June 23-29, 2023 (with all expenses paid by the program).
Engage with community
Identify a collective need and determine how to make a meaningful difference.
Build a team
Develop and launch your community change project.
Free college advising
Our program asks students to take on a lot during a time when many of them are also applying to colleges and finishing high school. As part of the Bezos Scholar experience, every student is offered free, individual remote college advising with an advisor who is passionate about how education can transform lives and communities. Support covers everything related to applying to college, including identifying schools that are a good fit, essay-writing, completing applications, navigating financial aid, and more. All Scholars receive personalized letters of recommendation from the program to bolster their applications.
Join a growing community.
For many Scholars, one of the greatest benefits of the program is connecting to a group of like-minded-yet-diverse people from across the United States and Africa who are passionate about changing their communities for the better. Bonds forged through the program can be strong; participants often develop deep and lasting friendships.
Aspen Ideas Festival
Elevate your point of view.
The Bezos Scholars year kicks off with an all-expenses-paid trip to the Aspen Ideas Festival, held annually in late June in Aspen, Colorado. There, 8,000 feet above sea level, in one of the United States’ most spectacular settings, Scholars attend seven action-packed days of talks, events and interactive experiences, including Scholar-exclusive experiences with some of the most provocative writers, artists, entrepreneurs and leaders shaping the world today.
Recent presenters at the festival include New York Times columnist David Brooks, former U.S. Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Colin Powell, writer and actor Anna Deavere-Smith, and psychologist, professor, author, and founder of Character Lab Angela Duckworth.
Scholars divide their time between taking in talks and events and participating in workshops and other activities. There’s also plenty of time to connect and have fun!
An inside look
2019 Scholar Sarah Tran offers a video tour of the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Listen, reflect, discuss, do.
Throughout the year, Scholars take part in dynamic workshops designed to spark personal reflection and growth, hone leadership skills and inform their community change projects. Workshops and presenters vary by year. Recent workshop partners have included:
Storytellers for Change
Sessions by Storytellers for Change on how to use personal narratives to connect across differences and build engagement.
A series by national nonprofit nXu on helping Scholars define their purpose and translate it into a Community Change project.
Instruction from nonprofit design studio Ideo.org in developing a research plan built on insight, ideas and engagement from the community being served.
Learning by doing: community change projects
Community change projects are the core of the Bezos Scholarship Program and part of what makes us different from other leadership experiences. Every Bezos Scholar creates and implements a project that raises awareness and mobilizes action to address a need in their hometown. Scholars build a team to support their project with a vision of making a difference not only during their Scholar year, but for years to come; projects are designed to be sustainable and many past projects have been operating for five years or more.
The Bezos Scholars Program provides a framework that guides and supports Scholars through every step of their projects, from initial concept development through launch, implementation and evaluation. Scholars get ongoing coaching and support as well as $1,000 in funding based on grant proposals they write and which projects can reapply for annually.
At the beginning, Scholars are guided through big questions to find the idea for their community change projects: What am I passionate about? Who am I in relation to the place I come from? What needs do I see there? What would lasting change look like? We support Scholars in engaging their communities to gain perspective on the people they’re serving and uncover the most feasible projects addressing their community’s most urgent needs.
From there, Scholars formally select the community need they want to focus their project on and an approach for making a meaningful impact on that need. They build a team of students and community members to help. They develop a project management plan and apply for funding to carry out their vision and mission. We provide key milestones, support and resources along the way, but Scholars are largely self-directed in their work. As they develop and launch their projects, Scholars document outcomes and the lessons they learn to enable future student leaders to sustain the project for years to come.
community change projects since 2005
Below, you’ll find a big picture overview of the year-long Scholar program. Reading will help you better understand the cadence, activities, and opportunities offered to Scholars, as well as the commitment and dedication Scholars give to their cohort and Community Change Projects.
End of student’s junior year. Students and educators (Scholars) complete onboarding materials and participate in engaging virtual sessions with their cohort and staff to build relationships, community and norm on roles and program expectations.
Summer before student’s senior year. Scholars travel to Aspen to spend an amazing week together and attend the Aspen Ideas Festival, meet with and be inspired by innovative global leaders, and participate in Scholar only speaker sessions and leadership workshops.
Fall of student’s senior year. Continue planning and developing your project. Participate in virtual sessions and workshops with diverse speakers representing different areas of expertise related to leadership skill-building and project development and begin planning a presentation to showcase and celebrate your project.
Winter of student’s senior year. Begin planning a presentation to showcase and celebrate your project and start building a team of youth and community members to help you and complete a grant proposal to earn $1,000 in seed funding to launch your project.
February of student’s senior year. All Scholar projects will launch by February at the latest. Project activities may continue until high school graduation. Scholars continue participating in monthly sessions and carrying our project activities and tasks.
March and April of student’s senior year. Scholars reflect on their year, celebrate learning, plan how to carry forward skills they built and are welcomed into the alumni network.