Meet the 2019 Bezos Scholars!

Application

Is there a limit on the number of student applications a school may submit?

Yes, we ask that no more than two students per school submit an application. If there are multiple eligible students at a school, we suggest the school host an internal selection process to identify the top two candidates to move forward with submitting an application.

What are the eligibility requirements for schools and students?

Applicant's school must:

  • Be a public high school in the United States (charter, magnet schools, and tribal schools through the Bureau of Indian Education are also eligible).
  • Have a 30% or greater free and reduced lunch rate.
  • To encourage equity of opportunity, students that attend schools who have had a Scholar in the last two years are not eligible to apply. For the 2020 application cycle, ineligible schools include:
    • Amundsen High School in Chicago, IL
    • ASU Preparatory Academy: South Phoenix High School in Phoenix, AZ
    • Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, LA
    • C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, LA
    • Charlottesville High School in Charlottesville, VA
    • Colton High School in Colton, CA
    • Gahr High School in Cerritos, CA
    • Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, CA
    • Gonzales High School in Gonzales, CA
    • Granada Hills Charter High School in Granada Hills, CA
    • Harlingen School of Health Professions in Harlingen, TX
    • Harrisburg High School- SciTech Campus in Harrisburg, PA
    • Hawthorne Math & Science Academy in Hawthorne, CA
    • Ideate High Academy in San Diego, CA
    • James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, CT
    • Kokomo High School in Kokomo, IL
    • LaFayette High School in LaFayette, AL
    • Livingston Collegiate Academy in New Orleans, LA
    • Noble High School in North Berwick, ME
    • Piedmont Classical High School in Browns Summit, NC
    • Pomeroy High School in Pomeroy, WA
    • Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, PA
    • West High School in Salt Lake City, UT
    • West Valley High School in Cottonwood, CA

Applicant must:

  • Be a junior during the current academic year and a senior the following academic year.
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or have received DACA status.
  • Not attend one of the ineligible schools listed above.
  • Have a proven track record of demonstrated leadership in their school and/or community.
  • Have taken and received scores for at least one of these tests: PSAT, SAT, ACT, or ACT Aspire.
  • Be enrolled in, or have taken, one or more Advanced Placement (AP) classes, International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, or college-level courses.
  • Be available to fully participate in the year-long program and attend all dates for the Aspen Ideas Festival trip in Aspen, Colorado: June 27 - July 3, 2020. We apologize in advance, but no exceptions for late arrival or early departure (barring an emergency) can be made.

Are exceptions made for stellar students in other grades?

Only students who are juniors at a public high school during the current academic year may apply.

Can someone from outside my school serve as the educator nominee?

The Educator Nominee needs to be one of the following:

  • A current school staff: Principals, Vice Principals, and other school staff beyond current teachers are eligible to be nominated.
  • A current school partner staff: School partner staff refers to an outside agency or organization who partners with a school to provide services, resources, and/or opportunities to the school community.
  • A current volunteer working at your school.

We cannot make exceptions to this requirement.

An Educator Nominee should be someone who connects and work well with students, is supportive of student-led projects, can provide constructive feedback, and understands and can commit to the year-long program requirements which average 5-20 hours per month.

Educators must attend all program dates in Aspen and must plan on being at their school for the following academic year.

How does an educator apply?

Educators cannot apply on their own. If an educator is interested in this opportunity, they should engage and encourage a student leader who is currently a junior at their school to apply.

Student applicants will need to identify and nominate an educator from their school in their application who will serve as an engaged participant and collaborative partner throughout the year-long program. As an educator, they will accompany their student to Aspen and work with them to design and execute a community change project.

An Educator Nominee should be someone who:

  • Is a current staff, school partner staff, or volunteer working at the school. Principals, Vice Principals, and other school staff are also eligible to be nominated.
  • Connects and work well with students.
  • Is supportive of student-led projects.
  • Can provide constructive feedback.
  • Understands and can commit to the year-long program requirements which average 5-20 hours per month.
  • Can attend all program trip dates in Aspen.
  • Plans on remaining at their current school for the following academic year.

We advise applicants to solicit their principal and/or vice principal for support and feedback on their educator nominee.

What if my school does not offer AP or IB classes?

Being enrolled in or have taken at least one AP, IB, or College Level Course is required as part of the application. If your school does not offer one of these types of classes, consider enrolling and taking a class at your local community college or an online college level course you are interested in. If you do, work with your school to also see if they will allow this course to go toward your high school credit graduation requirements.

While academic rigor is a qualifying requirement, we recognize that many factors can affect a student’s success beyond grades, GPA, classes, and test scores. If an applicant has had any academic challenges, we encourage and advise them to share this in their essay responses and include evidence on how they are actively addressing them.

We also recognize that some schools do not or cannot offer AP, IB, or college level courses. If these classes are not offered at an applicant’s school and an applicant therefore has had limited exposure to them, we advise them to share that in their essay responses.

What if I haven’t taken the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or ACT Aspire test?

Scores from at least one standardized test are required as part of the application.

While academic rigor is a qualifying requirement, we recognize that many factors can affect a student’s success. If an applicant has had any academic challenges, we encourage and advise them to share this in their essay responses and include evidence on how they are actively addressing them.

When is the application deadline?

Applications must be completed and submitted by midnight on Friday, January 31, 2020 – in the time zone the student resides.

Applications are not complete until all three forms are also submitted by the applicant’s principal, educator nominee, and recommender. This needs to be done by the deadline.

How do I start and submit my application?

To start an application, students must first affirm eligibility and create a profile. A profile allows you to save and return to your application any time before the deadline. Once you submit your application, it can no longer be edited. A completed application includes:

  • Parts 1 and 2 completed and submitted by the student
  • Once an applicant clicks “submit” they can no longer go back in and make edits/changes to their application.
  • Applicants can submit their application after they have sent their principal, educator nominee, and recommender an invite, and before these individuals have submitted their forms. Applicants need to submit their application by the deadline.
  • Applications are not complete until all three forms are submitted by the applicant’s principal, educator nominee, and recommender. This must also be done by the deadline.

How many Bezos Scholars are there each year?

30 scholars are selected each year:

  • 12 U.S.- based high school juniors and a nominated educator from their school
  • 5 students and 1 educator from the African Leadership Academy

What should I include in my application to make it competitive and how are applications evaluated?

A selection committee comprised of a diverse group of leaders in education, youth leadership and development, science, the arts, and Bezos Scholars alumni evaluates and recommends candidates based on:

Leadership Qualities

  • Demonstrated leadership and civic engagement
  • Identified leadership traits & skills
  • Collaboration
  • Independent thought and ideas
  • Intrinsic motivation

Readiness to Engage in the Program

  • Social-emotional maturity
  • Expression and listening skills
  • Readiness & capacity to grow

Academic Rigor

  • Rigor of coursework
  • Cumulative GPA
  • Test score of at least one college admittance test requirement (PSAT, SAT, ACT, or ACT Aspire)

While academic rigor is a qualifying requirement, we recognize that there are many factors that can affect a student’s success beyond grades, GPA, classes, and test scores. If an applicant has experienced any academic challenges, we encourage and advise them to share this in their essay responses and include evidence on how they are actively addressing them.

We also recognize that some schools do not, or cannot offer AP, IB, or college level courses. In these cases applicants can submit courses taken outside of their school, at other learning institutions, or online. If advanced coursework is not offered at an applicant’s school and an applicant therefore has had limited exposure to this, we advise them to share that in their essay responses.

Student Written Responses Essay Questions

  • Strong competency of written responses that demonstrate complete and supported ideas, statements, and actions that show leadership, creativity, humility, and compassion.

While student written responses are an integral part of an application review process, we recognize being an English Language Learner may affect English writing competencies. We encourage and advise applicants to address anything affecting their ability to craft and write their essay responses in their application, with the emphasis that they do not have to disclose anything they are not comfortable disclosing.

Principal Support, Educator Nomination, Recommendation

  • Enthusiastic support and encouragement for the applicant with insights on the applicant’s areas of achievement, academic rigor, reliance, ability to face and learn from adversity, and/or leadership in the community.
  • Supportive evidence and multiple tangible examples of applicant’s maturity, ability to work well with others, and why this applicant is ready to become a Bezos Scholar.
  • We seek passionate and intellectually curious young people who are rising leaders in their schools and communities. We value cultural, racial, socioeconomic, geographic, and gender diversity among applicants and seek to select a cohort that reflects the diversity across the U.S.

What schools are ineligible for the 2020 application cycle?

To encourage equity of opportunity, students that attend schools who have had a Scholar in the last two years are not eligible to apply. For the 2020 application cycle, ineligible schools include:

  • Amundsen High School in Chicago, IL
  • ASU Preparatory Academy: South Phoenix High School in Phoenix, AZ
  • Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, LA
  • C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, LA
  • Charlottesville High School in Charlottesville, VA
  • Colton High School in Colton, CA
  • Gahr High School in Cerritos, CA
  • Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, CA
  • Gonzales High School in Gonzales, CA
  • Granada Hills Charter High School in Granada Hills, CA
  • Harlingen School of Health Professions in Harlingen, TX
  • Harrisburg High School- SciTech Campus in Harrisburg, PA
  • Hawthorne Math & Science Academy in Hawthorne, CA
  • Ideate High Academy in San Diego, CA
  • James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, CT
  • Kokomo High School in Kokomo, IL
  • LaFayette High School in LaFayette, AL
  • Livingston Collegiate Academy in New Orleans, LA
  • Noble High School in North Berwick, ME
  • Piedmont Classical High School in Browns Summit, NC
  • Pomeroy High School in Pomeroy, WA
  • Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, PA
  • West High School in Salt Lake City, UT
  • West Valley High School in Cottonwood, CA

How was the program established?

The Bezos Scholars Program was founded in 2005 by Mike and Jackie Bezos who are passionate about amplifying and elevating youth voice and leadership. It is funded and run by the Bezos Family Foundation. The Aspen Institute, whose mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values, also provides support. The Bezos Family Foundation’s vision is that all young people—especially those furthest from opportunity—can reach their full potential and meaningfully contribute to society.

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In Aspen

What to Expect Day-to-Day at the Aspen Ideas Festival

The Bezos Scholars Program is a “program within a program” that takes place during the annual Aspen Ideas Festival on the beautiful Aspen Institute campus. From sunrise to sundown, the Aspen Ideas Festival packs hundreds of fascinating discussions into 10 days, with over 3,000 attendees.

On the Aspen Institute campus, Scholars and educators attend seven days of exciting and rigors activities and experiences. This includes Scholar-exclusive conversations and meals with provocative thinkers, writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and change-agents from around the world.

The Festival is divided into three parts, each with its own standalone pass: Health, Festival 1, and Festival 2. We will have only passes and access to the Aspen Ideas Festival for Festival 1. During Festival 1, there will be time each day for Scholars to choose 3-4 sessions to attend outside of BSP-specific programming.

We will convene as a group for private sessions with notable speakers and guests throughout the week. Most days, in the afternoons and evenings during Festival 1, we have planned leadership sessions, workshops, and activities specifically designed for Scholars.

Read what Scholars have to share about their experience in Aspen:

Explore the Aspen Ideas Festival Website and Program Book

While at the Festival, we advise Scholars to follow their passions in selecting sessions and events, but also be open and push themselves to take in something new and unexpected.

  • Please visit www.aspenideas.org for information on speakers, tracks, and the most up-to-date Festival information.
  • Go online, read about the experience, check out the audio/video gallery from past festivals, check out the sessions offered and notables speaking in Festival 1, and subscribe to the Festival’s email list.

Is there any cost to Scholars associated with the trip to Aspen?

The Bezos Scholars Program covers all costs for students and educators associated with lodging and travel to and from Aspen, Colorado except for transportation to and from their home airport. The Program also includes passes for attendance at the Aspen Ideas Festival 1 and all activities and meals during the time in Aspen.

Meals and an assortment of snacks will be provided throughout each day. There is also a lot of free food options available across the Aspen Institute campus during the Aspen Ideas Festival. We will honor any dietary or religious food restrictions Scholars share and always try to provide various options for different tastes/preferences.

What are the program dates for the Aspen, Colorado?

June 27 –July 30, 2020. Selected students and educators must attend all dates of the trip in Aspen.

What can I expect to experience in Aspen and at the Aspen Ideas Festival?

We arrange all travel for Scholars and send them a detailed travel itinerary before the trip. Students will stay together at a separate hotel from educators. Generally, both student and educator Scholars will share same-gender, double or triple occupancy rooms. Bezos Scholars Program staff will also stay at the student hotel and serve as student chaperones.

What’s Aspen like in the summer?

Aspen is remarkable year-round, but summer is especially beautiful! At an elevation of 8,000 feet, days in the Rockies in late June are usually warm and sunny with cooler mornings and nights. It can be unpredictable though, and weather can vary between sun, rain, hail, and even snow. Generally, weather is in the 70’s (F) during the day and the 40’s to 50’s at night.

There are cottonwood and aspen trees everywhere, blanketing the town in what appears to be "summer snow," which can aggravate allergies.

Altitude: Since Aspen is located at about 8,000 feet elevation, this means less oxygen and less humidity is available than at sea level, and a variety of usually mild symptoms can result. For most people, minor symptoms of altitude will disappear as their body adjusts within a few days. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath while doing an activity or exerting yourself
  • Headache/Foggy headed
  • Nasal congestion, irritation, or dryness
  • Fatigue/Low energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild nausea
  • The best way to minimize symptoms of altitude sickness is to take it easy, rest, drink A LOT of water, eat a little protein (even if you are not feeling hungry), and get plenty of sleep!

Local Ideas Festivals

Can Scholar teams select any theme for their Community Change Projects?

Successful community change projects are an intersection of a community need and a Scholar's passions. Students and educators spend substantial time at the beginning of the program researching, gathering information from and interviewing members of their community before choosing a specific.

What does a successful community change project look like?

Success can look different for each Scholar and community—just as the issue they choose to address is different. As part of the planning process, Scholars participate in workshops on Design Thinking and are encouraged to think outside of the box.

Scholars work with their teams to define their own goals and success is measured by the progress made toward achieving the goals, such as measurable increase in community engagement, number of attendees at an event, or establishing a school club by a date. We urge Scholars to focus on sustainability and to design projects that grow and evolve year after year. Check out these videos to see examples.

How do the students and educators work together on designing a project?

Each project is student-led. Yet students and educators function as a collaborative team throughout the year and work together to identify issues and ideas that resonate with their community.

Scholars build a team of students, school staff, community members, and partners to support the creation and execution of their project. Educators play a special role as advocates and allies to students on the team. This can include helping to navigate school administration and policies, engaging the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)/Booster Club or other traditionally adult-centered spaces, advocating for the project and its needs, or promoting and providing support with outreach. The educator is a cheerleader, helper, and sounding board for students on the team. Educators are asked to know when they may be over leading and needing to step back so students and youth can step into their leadership.

How do Scholars receive funding to launch their Community Change Project?

After returning home from the Aspen Ideas Festival, Scholars complete a grant proposal to receive a $1,000 award. With support from the Bezos Scholars Program team and their educator, Scholars go through a revision process and submit their grant proposal, receive funding which is given to their school, PTA/Booster Club, or a nonprofit that has agreed to be their fiscal sponsor. Scholars also complete a progress report mid-way through the year, and a final report at the close of the year. Scholars can seek additional funding from their community, if desired, including in-kind donations.

Schools are eligible to apply for and receive $1,000 each year, for up to three years total, to continue their projects. Continuing schools seeking funding must also complete a grant proposal, progress, and final report.

What are Bezos Scholar year-long commitments for students and educators?

Students and their Educator Nominee must be able to commit to participating in the year-long program from May 2020 - May 2021. This includes active participation in and commitment to:

  • Monthly hour-long leadership webinars
  • Trip to Aspen, Colorado June 27 - July 3, 2020 to attend the prestigious Aspen Ideas Festival. If a student or their educator cannot attend all dates of the trip, they are ineligible to apply.
  • Monthly, or as needed, check-in phone/video calls with other Scholars and the Bezos Scholars Program team
  • Engaging their community in identifying a need and how to make a meaningful impact on that issue
  • Building a team to lead the development and launch of a community change project
  • Submitting a Grant Proposal, Progress Report, and Final Report related to the community change project and other funding deliverables identified by the program.

We estimate that students and educators dedicate 5 - 20 hours per month on program-related activities throughout the year.

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