2015 Bezos Scholar alumnus Estela David and 2018 Scholar Kayo Jelissa Kamaguem are both former students of the African Leadership Academy. Both were selected as Aspen Challenge: Miami 2020 Interns. Their role is to support logistics for two large events in February and April of 2020.
In its eighth year, the Aspen Challenge launched its work with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Over eight weeks, teams of students from high schools across Miami-Dade County will design creative, original solutions to pressing issues in their communities and showcase them for a panel of local judges.
Senior Program Manager Brett Howley, with Aspen Challenge at the Aspen Institute, shared,
“I was wildly impressed with Estela and Jelissa’s energy, excitement, and work ethic. Any second they did not have a task to do, they came right up to me asking how they can be most helpful. It is very rare to have folks step up to the plate and go way above and beyond without any nudging. I can already tell they have massively bright futures ahead of them”.
Read on to hear Estela and Jelissa talk about their experience as interns and Aspen Challenge’s impact.
I am Estela, originally from Mozambique and a current junior at Westminster College, a private liberal arts college in Fulton, Missouri. Being an Aspen Challenge intern was a life-changing and mind-blowing experience. I was motivated to be an intern because I want to be around young people hungry to change their community.
While in Miami, I was privileged to get to know Gaby Pacheco, a speaker at the event from the Dream.Us that spoke about immigrant inclusion. She challenged students to design a program that fosters empathy and creates an inclusive community where all immigrants, regardless of their documentation status, feel a sense of belonging. Since I am an international student, I connected with much of what she said and got a better understanding of the critical challenge immigrants in the states face while being inspired to get more involved in the issue.
One of my main goals is to bring microfinance projects to young people, especially women because I believe they are the most impactful changemakers. Spending the day in a room full of young people with the skills and desire to make change brought back my overwhelming sense of hope in knowing there are still changemakers out there. The Aspen Challenge inspired me to continue working with microfinance startups focused on women and girls. My path and purpose to help women start businesses to foster financial stability was further solidified as an Aspen Challenge Intern. It was amazing to be there, to network, and to represent myself and the Bezos Scholars Program.
In true form, Estela joyfully working hard, unpacking event supplies the day before the event.
I am Kayo Jelissa, originally from Cameroon and a first-year student at Lafayette College, a private liberal arts college based in Easton, Pennsylvania. Aspen Challenge is a unique and inspiring event and the community of talented high school students and inspiring guest speakers from across the nation are what motivated me to participate as an intern. During my time in Miami, I enjoyed working with the team organizing the event. Although I was one of the youngest on the team, I still felt respected and appreciated for the work I contributed. In addition, I had the opportunity to do what I love doing most: networking. This experience will enrich my journey as a future chemical engineer and entrepreneur as I look forward to positively impacting my home country, Cameroon.
I was most interested in the challenge posed by Solome Tibebu, for students to create an innovative solution that bridges the disconnect between institutions and support services to improve the mental health of our youth. As a first-year college student, I know from experience how stressful the transition into college can be. I can’t wait to see what the students come up with who take on her challenge.
Kayo Jelissa with Aspen Challenge speaker, Solome Tibebu, Founder of Cognific.
Each January, the Bezos Scholars Program invites the Scholar alumni community to apply to the Aspen Challenge Internship, which launches in a new city every year. Application inquiries or questions can be sent to Valerie at firstname.lastname@example.org.