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Contributed by
MOLLY PENCKE
Youth Leadership Programs Manager
Categories
Community & News

A Message from the Bezos Scholars Program

Black Lives Matter.

The tragic killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many other individuals who have lost their lives because of racism in America is painful and senseless. Each was somebody’s son or daughter. Mother. Father. Friend. Teacher. Community member. Resulting protests across the nation and world remind us we are in the midst of two global pandemics that need to be eradicated: COVID-19 and systemic racism.

The Bezos Scholars Program was launched over 15 years ago to create a hands-on experience in which all young people, regardless of their race, gender, or zip code, can build their efficacy and ability to access, create, and lead meaningful change in their communities. Youth in this moment continue to be the changemakers, pushing for equality and justice.

As a program team, we are examining our own experiences and privileges individually and as part of our Foundation to bear witness, listen, and act.

What a time to be called into our mission to engage students and educators in fostering leadership skills, connecting across difference, and driving sustainable community change. To lead with our values of compassion, equity, and curiosity. To reaffirm our beliefs that all young people are exceptional and have the potential to be leaders, but need to feel a sense of belonging to learn, grow, and feel safe to take healthy risks.

In this extraordinary time, we commit to standing with you as we strive for justice and inclusion. We recognize we have our own work to do and still have a lot to learn. Here are the tangible actions our team is moving forward on as we learn and grow together:

  • Continue to partner with Philanthropy Northwest’s Momentum Fellowship to hire talent that reflects the communities we serve, and to support inclusive pathways for professionals of color to join the field of philanthropy.
  • Persist with actively promoting our program and providing application support, particularly to youth of color, rural youth, and youth most affected by the country’s wealth disparities.
  • Continue to examine school and student eligibility requirements for the program that may create unfair barriers.
  • Showcase a range of leaders, presenters, and curriculum that reflects diverse identities and perspectives.
  • Teach and encourage Scholars to develop equitable leadership teams for community change projects and ensure these projects are done in collaboration with, not for, the people and communities they serve.
  • Support businesses and organizations run by people of color.
     

If you have suggestions for ways the program can continue to learn, grow, and contribute to anti-racism, please reach out. It takes a village.

Finally, we are planning an optional virtual webinar for all alumni in the coming weeks. A place to practice mindfulness, process how grief and sitting with fear and uncertainty may be affecting you, and build brave space while exploring ways to practice realistic, individualized self-care. We will send out more details and an invitation soon.

In solidarity and hope,

Molly and the Bezos Scholars Program team

Contributed by
MOLLY PENCKE
Youth Leadership Programs Manager
Categories
Community & News