Bezos Scholar applicant Jaeger Griswold shares what it was like to apply to the program. He also talks about how the program’s cancellation for 2020-21 due to COVID-19 impacted his hopes to become a Scholar, and the community change project he plans to do regardless.
My name is Jaeger Griswold and I am from Ellsworth, a small, rural, farming community in northern Michigan. My community is tight-knit. Everyone knows each other, and people are generally helpful and caring – working to benefit and boost everyone and everything around them. I attend Ellsworth Community School, a small school that offers personalized and engaging academics.
I learned about the Bezos Scholars Program through an environmental youth and education organization that I am a part of called Keep America Beautiful, whose aim is to build and maintain clean, green, and beautiful spaces. I was already invested in community efforts, so applying allowed me to further engage with my community. The application process required detail and precision. The most challenging part was clarifying my idea for the community change project I might undertake if accepted. The most rewarding part of applying was knowing that if accepted, I could earn the opportunity to create a project close to my heart and that has meaning for me and the community I love.
When I heard that, due to COVID-19, the Scholar program would not be able to select a 2020 cohort, initially I felt disappointed and let down. I imagine many applicants did. After some time to process and reflect on the news, I felt glad to have had the opportunity to practice applying to something I really wanted. COVID-19 has impacted me and my community in many ways. Students are adjusting to virtual learning and we are figuring out ways to connect safely. Mostly, we are still working out how to bounce back and figure out positive, alternative ways to navigate this new normal.
Regardless of COVID-19, I am still deeply committed to the Labyrinth Clean Up Revival Project, a community garden cleanup project of the Ellsworth Labyrinth Garden in my town. The garden, which we all just call “The Labyrinth,” has provided a peaceful sanctuary for over a decade. Unfortunately, over the years, it has been increasingly neglected and overgrown. My goal is to bring back the natural beauty of the Labyrinth, as a reflection of the strength and beauty of my surrounding community and to provide a calming space in nature. Through weeding, trimming, replanting, as well as replacing old worn parts of the labyrinth, this project will bring the community together as we all work to care and maintain it.
Pictures of the Labyrinth Clean Up Revival Project in late March of 2020. The team plans to do more clean up and add new plants and flowers as the seasons change.
Never give in to negativity or let unexpected changes completely derail your mission. Even with a global pandemic, there is a way to look to the positive and see the light at the end of any tunnel.
Knowing I could not be considered as a Scholar this year, along with all the other impacts COVID-19 caused, did not deter my community work with the Labyrinth. We needed a positive project connected to reviving hope and possibility in our town. All the news, changes, and uncertainty have been scary for us, and with so much disappointment related to the pandemic, I am glad this work has been giving me and my classmates something positive to focus on. We all need that right now— a project that will help create lasting beauty and hope for the future.
Ellsworth Labyrinth Before and After June 2020 Clean Up
Jaeger and his team were able to safely gather on June 26th, 2020. The team of 19 volunteers worked for six hours and made great progress on the clean up.
Jaeger shared, "I am excited that we were able to get it going and provide a space where people can come relax and enjoy nature."
The team will meet again in July and September to continue rejuvenating the Labyrinth. Along with the clean up, Jaeger plans to add a Little Free Library to this location. He's teamed up with Sarah Kamya via "Live with Kelly and Ryan", who started the "Little Free Diversity Libraries". Ms. Kamya agreed to assist with stocking the Labyrinth library with books featuring writers and artist of diverse backgrounds.
"I hope we can keep the excitement growing and the area cleaned up for all to enjoy for years to come," notes Jaeger.
Ellsworth Labyrinth June 2020 Clean Up. Volunteers left to right: Jürgen Griswold, Melissa Ramos, Lexi Montgomery, Jäeger Griswold, and Lindsey Fisher.
Jaeger Griswold will be a high school senior next year. After high school, he plans to attend a four year university. In his free time, he likes to watch movies, play sports, and travel with his family.