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Bezos Scholars Program Announces 2021 Cohort

On MAY 5, 2021 the Bezos Scholars Program (BSP) was excited to announce its 2021 cohort of Scholars. The cohort's 13 teams, made up of rising high school seniors and educators from across the U.S. and Africa, will design and lead projects to foster change in their communities. 

As in previous years, the applicant pool was extremely competitive. U.S. applicants attend a public school with a free and reduced lunch rate of 30% or higher to increase equity of opportunity. African applicants attend the African Leadership Academy, which has been in partnership with the program since 2011. Scholars are selected based on their commitment to education, demonstrated leadership abilities, willingness to embrace challenges, and desire to create positive change in their communities. 

The Bezos Family Foundation launched the Scholars program in 2005 to provide young people with a platform to design solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing their local areas. The program usually begins with an all-expenses paid trip to the Aspen Ideas Festival, where students engage in leadership training, panel discussions, and exclusive conversations with many of the world's most acclaimed scientists, journalists, artists and global leaders. This experience sets the stage for the challenge ahead: launching sustainable projects, known as Local Ideas Festivals (LIFs), to transform their communities.  

Due to ongoing pandemic safety concerns, the Scholar trip to Aspen slated for late June 2021 was cancelled. The program is excited to host engaging virtual programming during the time Scholars would have been in Aspen,and the 2021 cohort will participate in the virtual Aspen Ideas Festival slated for June 27-30.  

“This year’s impressive group of Scholars represents eight states across the U.S. and five African countries,” said Molly Pencke, Bezos Scholars Program Manager at the Bezos Family Foundation. “This cohort of Scholars has shown their incredible resilience throughout the pandemic in a school environment like none other, and we can’t wait to see how they impact local communities. We are honored to work and learn alongside these changemakers.” 

For their participation in the program, Scholars receive more than 40 hours of leadership curriculum, access to Scholar-only notable speaker sessions with inspirational leaders, $1,000 in seed funding to launch their community change projects which they can reapply for, free one-on-one college advising, free online tutoring services, and upon program completion, access to opportunities offered through the Scholar Alumni Network.  

The topics and themes of LIFs are as diverse as the Scholars themselves and designed to align Scholars’ passions with an existing community need. Many address inequities in education, advocating for the rights of underrepresented communities and the need to create space for civil discourse. Since the program’s inception, over 50,000 attendees have participated in these change projects.  

Please visit the Meet the Scholars page of the website to see full Scholar biographies and photos. The Bezos Family Foundation is honored to welcome the following 2021 Scholars: 

Student Scholar Ammi Lucy Hernandez and Educator Carla Felix
Cutler Bay Senior High School
Miami, FL 

Student Scholar Avery McCoy Ell and Educator Natalie Davis
Old Town High School
Old Town, ME  

Student Scholar Bella Garcia and Educator Mayra Valle 
Westchester Academy for International Studies in partnership with EMERGE Fellowship 
Houston, TX  

Student Scholar Bubuney Havi and Educator Maureen Loflin 
Bayside High School and Health Sciences Academy  
Virginia Beach, VA  

Student Scholar Flavia Nunez and Educator Michele Mar  
School for Advanced Studies- North Campus 
Miami, FL 

Student Scholar Gabriel Gerig and Educator Francisco Javier Lopez Ortiz 
Inlet Grove Community High School 
West Palm Beach, FL 

Student Scholar Isabel Ohakamma and Educator John Glenn Santos Ramon, PhD 
Hightower High School  
Stafford, TX 

Student Scholar Isoiza Emah and Educator Tony Mensah 
Montgomery Blair High School  
Silver Spring, MD 

Student Scholar Josephine Fields and Educator Kristi Billings 
Brown County High School  
Nashville, IN 

Student Scholar Owen Lee and Educator Nick Wellington  
Edmonds-Woodway High School  
Edmonds, WA 

Student Scholar Runzhi Hu and Educator Susan Potts 
Rancho High School  
Las Vegas, NV 

Student Scholar Sawyer Husain and Educator Tom Gayda 
North Central High School 
Indianapolis, IN 

Student Scholars Jaelene Sharveshni Iyman, Selima Terras, Suyash Nowbut, Saifeddine Lahmar, Panashe Noel Jonga and Educator Ssanyu Sematimba  
African Leadership Academy  
Johannesburg, South Africa representing the following home countries: South Africa, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Mauritious, and Uganda 

Contributed by
Youth Leadership Programs Manager
Community & News

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