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Youth Leadership Programs Manager
Student Stories , Educator Stories , Community & News

Introducing the 2019 Bezos Scholars!

This year’s impressive group of Scholars represents eight states and six African countries. Each of our Scholars has the leadership skills and motivation to look for new ways to engage their community and make a positive difference. We are honored to work and learn alongside them. 

The Bezos Family Foundation launched the Scholars program in 2005 to provide young people a platform to design solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing their communities. Scholars are selected based on demonstrated leadership abilities, willingness to embrace challenges, and the desire to create positive change in their communities. We are thrilled to welcome the following 2019 Scholars:


Ernest Cisneros
STUDENT SCHOLAR / Colton High School / Colton, CA

Ernest is passionate about mental health advocacy for young people and creating access to mental health services for them. He is President of his school’s TED Ed Club and has recently co-organized the school’s first ever TEDx conference, which was themed around mental wellness in schools. He is a member of his school district’s Health and Wellness Center Advisory Committee, which is establishing the first on-site mental wellness center at Colton High School, bringing mental health services to students and staff.

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Jorge Alvarez
EDUCATOR SCHOLAR / Colton High School / Colton, CA

Jorge immigrated to the United States from El Salvador when he was a sophomore in High School. He graduated with honors from Rialto High School and then became a History and English as a Second Language teacher. He is now an Assistant Principal and advisor of the TED Ed Club at his school. In 2017, he was selected as 1 of 33 TED Ed Innovative Educators from around the world. He holds a bachelor’s in Social Science and a dual master’s in Teaching and Educational Leadership from Azusa Pacific University. Jorge is a strong believer in the power of the human connection and loves to mentor students as they discover their purpose in life.

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Victor Ye
STUDENT SCHOLAR / Glen A. Wilson High School / Hacienda Heights, CA

Victor is passionate about enabling students to make exceptional contributions in the world as global citizens. He founded a global education 501(c)3 nonprofit, InnovaYouth, that empowers students through research, collaboration, and communication. He has been awarded the international Diana Award for his efforts to improve education. He is also part of Future Business Leaders of America's national council and plays varsity tennis. Victor hopes to bridge the skills gap in the American education system.

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Matthew Rojas
/ Glen A. Wilson High School / Hacienda Heights, CA

Matthew works in Career and Technical Education as a health science instructor specializing in classes that are related to Kinesiology. In addition, he also works as the girls’ soccer coach and club advisor for Health Occupations Students of America. Some of Matthew’s accomplishments include developing the health science career pathway, Valle Vista League champions for girls’ soccer, and starting a brand new HOSA chapter on site. He is passionate about connecting with and positively influencing as many students as possible.

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Sarah Tran
STUDENT SCHOLAR / Granada Hills Charter High School / Granada, CA

Sarah is fascinated about understanding public policy as a means to address complex societal issues. She is the captain of her school’s Model United Nations team, president of the Political Studies of America club, the youngest executive board member on the Granada Hills City Council, and a representative on the School Site Council and Mayor’s Youth Council. She has won top honors in Speech, Debate, MUN, and for her research in the behavioral sciences. Sarah was invited to speak at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, an experience she hopes will be the first of many to come.

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Cynthia Quintana
/ Granada Hills Charter High School / Granada, CA

Cindy has acted as the Service Coordinator for the International Baccalaureate Program at Granada Hills Charter High School for the past six years. She mentors students to discover their own passions and move those passions from ideas to effective and meaningful actions in the community. Some of her students have won prestigious grants and been honored by the City of Los Angeles for their service to the greater Los Angeles area. Prior to working in education, Cindy worked as a consultant for KPMG LLP and Garter Inc. She did her undergraduate work at UC Berkeley, and then earned her master’s degree in Urban Planning from UCLA.

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Trey Chapman
STUDENT SCHOLAR / Piedmont Classical High School / Greensboro, NC

Driven by the desire to repay the tremendous blessings bestowed to him, Trey’s passion combines his servant style leadership and humble beginnings to serve the community around him. Whether photographing special family moments for NICU parents, providing peer counseling and tutoring as a Senior Student Ambassador, or working to enrich the environment by creating natural habitats for wildlife, Trey’s focus is to use his skill set to meet the basic needs of those around him. 

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Lowana Wade
/ Piedmont Classical High School / Browns Summit, NC

Lowana has dedicated over 19 years of her life to educating and inspiring students in North Carolina.  During her tenure, she has served as an Assistant Principal, Classroom Teacher, School Counselor, Communities in Schools Coordinator, Athletic Director, and Coach.  She is a proud graduate of East Carolina University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and Capella University. Lowana holds degrees in School and Community Health Education, School Counseling, and School Administration.  Additionally, she served as a proud member of the Carolina Phoenix Women’s Tackle football team where she earned a World Championship Title in 2013.  She is passionate about serving others and leaving a lasting impact on those whose lives she has touched. 

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Zidikiyah Morrison
Livingston Collegiate Academy / New Orleans, LA

Zidikiyah was valedictorian in middle school and has been on honor roll every quarter since freshman year of high school. On track to be a first-generation college student, she is enrolled in college-level classes and works with College Track New Orleans. As an active member of the Sankofa Market project to combat food deserts, she helps bring healthy, accessible and affordable foods to low-income urban neighborhoods and is passionate about food justice. Working as a youth organizer, Zidikiyah is dedicated to amplifying the voices of young people. When she’s not busy with academics, she spends as much time in nature as possible, riding bikes or kayaking in the bayou.

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Cobren Greer
/ Livingston Collegiate Academy / New Orleans, LA

Cobren is a proud alumna of Wellesley College. During her time in Massachusetts, she worked with MIT’s MOSTEC science program and became passionate about helping students pursue careers in the STEM fields.  She is dedicated to ensuring that all students have access to an excellent education in high school and beyond. A strong advocate for student voice, Cobren is excited to engage with like-minded educators to share best practices for student empowerment through the Bezos Scholars Program. Cobren taught science for five years and is currently teaching a college success course to juniors at Livingston Collegiate. Outside of the classroom, she serves on the board of the STEM Lending Library in New Orleans, LA and the Resilient Sisterhood Project in Boston, MA.

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Rangasri Narayanamoorthy
Benjamin Franklin High School / New Orleans, LA

Rangasri is the incoming president of Benjamin Franklin High School’s Green Society, an active hub coordinator of the New Orleans Sunrise Movement, and an intern at both Healthy Gulf and the Alliance for Affordable Energy. Rangasri is an outspoken opponent of the proposed Entergy Power Plant in New Orleans East and is passionate about fighting for environmental justice alongside her peers. She researches rNA-synthesized microbial water columns at Tulane University, is a 3-time Mu Alpha Theta State medalist, and is the current Louisiana High School Rally Economics winner.

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Kady Clincy
Benjamin Franklin High School / New Orleans, LA

Kady is currently teaching AP Environmental Science at Benjamin Franklin High School.She values environmental advocacy and literacy and is passionate about the equity and inclusion of all students. Kady received her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Tennessee.In 2007 she joined the Greater New Orleans Teach for America Corp and has been teaching ever since.She is the sponsor of her school’s Green Society and coordinated the application for the National Green Ribbon Benjamin Franklin High was awarded in 2016.

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Robert Lawrence
STUDENT SCHOLAR / C. E. Byrd High School / Shreveport, LA

A passionate supporter of youth civic engagement, Robert is currently serving as Student Council President, Vice President of the Northwest Louisiana Teen Advisory Committee, and Secretary of the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council. Robert is an enthusiastic leader in Louisiana’s Youth & Government program and recently lobbied on Capitol Hill as a YMCA National Youth Advocate for issues directly effecting young people in his community. He believes inspiring youth to take part in government is critical in developing a generation of engaged citizens.

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April W. Carberry
EDUCATOR SCHOLAR / C. E. Byrd High School / Shreveport, LA

April has been an educator for 20 years and is currently an Advanced Placement English Literature teacher and Student Council sponsor at C. E. Byrd High School. April was named the 2014 Caddo Parish Teacher of the Year, and she is a National Board-Certified Teacher. She values a strong work ethic, authentic relationships, community engagement, and civic responsibility. April received her bachelor’s degree in English, History, and professional writing from the University of North Alabama and her master’s degree in Education from Jacksonville State University.

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Nicolette Peji
STUDENT SCHOLAR / Ideate High Academy / San Diego, CA

Nicolette is passionate about design and the visual arts, which she sees as celebration of community and culture. She is also passionate about making the world a better place. For that reason, she created a greeting card company called LoveLetters that gives cards, made with her own designs, to people in need of uplifting. Through this enterprise, she had the opportunity to be the only high school panelist to speak at the 2018 Global Empowerment Summit at UCSD. She aims to make a difference in her school’s community as well. At Ideate High Academy, she is a Bilingual Student Ambassador, a founding member of ASB, and Nicolette will be part of the school’s first graduating class next year.

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Dana Dale
EDUCATOR SCHOLAR / Ideate High Academy / San Diego, CA

Dana has worked in education for 10 years and is currently at Ideate High Academy, a design thinking charter school in downtown San Diego, California. While there she has designed and implemented a design thinking-based humanities curriculum for all ninth and tenth grade students. Additionally, she has helped implement schoolwide interventions for emergent bilingual students. Dana has also worked abroad teaching English as a second language in Seoul, South Korea. She is passionate about creating inclusive educational experiences for her students. Dana received her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from San Francisco State University and her master’s degree from National University.

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Jalan Drummond
STUDENT SCHOLAR / Lafayette High School / Lafayette, AL

Jalan is passionate about self-expression and being the best you you can be. He has been Head Drum Major of the Lafayette High School marching band, and President of his graduating class for three years. A natural born leader, he hopes to maximize his leadership qualities and drive community change while being a Bezos Scholar. Jalan has rallied friends to volunteer to provide child care for community members, worked with local organizations to get needed school supplies to students, and volunteered at the Special Olympics and a local nursing home. He is also a UNITE mentoring group member.

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Precious White-Jordan
EDUCATOR SCHOLAR / Lafayette High School / Lafayette, AL

Precious is driven to help students overcome barriers that impact their learning. She has an M.Ed in Special Education from The University of West Alabama, an M.S. degree in Post-Secondary Education from Troy University, and a B.S. degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from the University of Montevallo. Precious is the 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year and a member of The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International. Precious would argue that her students teach her far more than she could ever teach them, and is in awe of them every day.


Madison Momenee
STUDENT SCHOLAR / Noble High School / North Berwick, ME

Madison is passionate about making positive change within her community. She is currently working to utilize her many leadership roles including Student Body President and member of National Honors Society to create positive community change. In addition, she loves learning and teaching others new things. This passion has guided her towards becoming a Big Sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, as well as placing in the State Science Fair, earning a full tuition scholarship at a local college.

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Jessica Cutliffe
EDUCATOR SCHOLAR / Noble High School / North Berwick, ME

Jess has been a 9th grade math teacher for the last four years. She is also in her second year as the Student Council advisor, and believes that when students are empowered, their independence, leadership, creativity, and personality shine. Her next professional goal is to earn her master’s degree in school counseling to help fulfill her passion for supporting students’ social-emotional growth.


Peyton Klein
STUDENT SCHOLAR / Taylor Allderdice High School / Pittsburgh, PA

Peyton is a Junior at Taylor Allderdice High School and the founder of Global Minds Initiative, a student-led movement to combat cultural intolerance and discrimination in schools internationally. Global Minds is an afterschool program that bridges English-as-a-Second-Language and Native English-Speaking students. Since 2016, Global Minds has expanded into 23 schools and 2 countries, impacting over 1,500 students. Peyton is a TEDx speaker and the recipient of the 2017 YWCA Racial Justice Award in Youth Achievement, the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, and the Coro Innovation Leadership Award. Peyton’s work has been featured on the Today Show, Fox News, Teen Vogue, and the New York Times.


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Jennifer McGonagle
EDUCATOR SCHOLAR / Taylor Allderdice High School / Pittsburgh, PA

Jennifer loves her job because it allows her to be creative, to share her passions and to be energized by the talented youth who surround her. She has been an educator for over 25 years. After spending many years teaching in a suburban school outside of Boston, she has welcomed the opportunity to teach at a more diverse public school in Pittsburgh. As she adapts, she too is a pupil, constantly learning from her students. Her B.A. is from Middlebury, her M.Ed from Harvard, and she holds a doctorate (French) from Boston College. She is also certified to teach Spanish. She is passionate about traveling, and anything related to any part of the francophone world. When not watching every French film on Netflix, she enjoys alpine skiing, in-line skating, and long walks with her dog and family.

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Brayden York
STUDENT SCHOLAR / Kokomo High School / Kokomo, IN

Brayden is a rising Senior at Kokomo High School in the International Baccalaureate Program and has a passion for leadership and international education. He is the Vice President of the Indiana HOSA-Future Health Professionals organization and the president of both his senior class and the student council. Brayden is also the founder of the Melanie Peoples Memorial Travel Scholarship, a scholarship awarded to students wishing to study abroad who without financial assistance, would be unable to do so.

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Leslie Lewis
EDUCATOR SCHOLAR / Kokomo High School / Kokomo, IN

Leslie teaches students in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) and is the Student Council co-sponsor. Her particular interest is developing innovative language and literature curricula within the MYP that meets students where they are developmentally and strengthens their reading, analyzing, and critical thinking skills. She has benefited professionally by traveling to 27 countries and works to incorporate her cultural immersion experiences in her units of study. This past October, Leslie presented at the Sino-US Educational Exchange Seminar in Shanghai, China. Leslie has also accompanied dozens of students to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont over the years to encourage experiential learning in the outdoors. Leslie is an avid reader and a budding photographer, but her true passion is Xavier University basketball!

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Mpiwa Gwindi
STUDENT SCHOLAR / African Leadership Academy / Mazowe, Zimbabwe

Mpiwa has a passion for promoting African Arts through the Performing Arts. Towards this goal, she organized the Zimbabwe nationwide event, ZiMarimba Fest 2k18, that broke the Guinness World Record for the largest Marimba ensemble to play together. Mpiwa qualified as a finalist in the Los Angeles World Championships of Performing Arts 2018 with African Traditional Instrumentals, including the Marimba and Mbira.

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Thaksheel Nirvaan Alleck
 STUDENT SCHOLAR / African Leadership Academy / Union Park, Mauritius

Thaksheel is a young and passionate entrepreneur who is particularly interested in business, sciences, environmental sustainability and technology. He believes with hard work, talent and luck anyone can be successful at what they are doing, and he is actively working towards building a strong network of great and successful individuals. Thaksheel is the co-Founder of EcoSoap, a start-up with the aim to improve the hygienic conditions of economically disadvantaged people through the production of recycled soap. Furthermore, he is a consultant for African Leadership Consulting Group, with the aim to provide outstanding consultation to SMEs to accelerate their growth, and in the process, thoroughly expanding the knowledge of consultants.

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Mike Remezo
STUDENT SCHOLAR / African Leadership Academy / Musaga, Burundi

Mike is passionate about coding and entrepreneurship. As a coder he has designed an App with a group of friends at the African Leadership Academy to help farmers in Burundi. As a member of the Election Supervisory Council (ESC), which focuses on hosting and supervising fair and free Student Government elections at ALA, Mike serves as the Blockchain Platform Lead, helping leverage technology to carry out secure elections. He is the co-founder of Club Taiga in Burundi, which gathers young people together around arts, including writing which is one of his passions. Notably, Club Taiga was awarded Best Youth Club by the Burundian government in 2016. His hope is to inspire and start the next generation of coders who can help solve some of the world’s problems through accessible, digital tools.

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Nicolus Mositi
STUDENT SCHOLAR / African Leadership Academy / Maseru, Lesotho

Nicolus is an 18-year-old from Maseru, Lesotho. Growing up in a community engulfed in unemployment, where even people with a good education struggle to find a job, Nicolus decided to take a route less travelled – entrepreneurship. At the age of 16, he took it upon himself to empower teenagers to dedicate intensive service to the field of agriculture throughout the year, to tackle the problem of starvation due to unemployment in the community. At school, his passion for youth development in entrepreneurship led him to intern for the 2018 South African Ideas Festival, helping host the event. He strongly believes that equipping young people with entrepreneurial skills is one of the best ways in which Africa can develop.

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Abigael Abuga
STUDENT SCHOLAR / African Leadership Academy /
Nairobi, Kenya

Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Abigael is a student at the African Leadership Academy (ALA). Along with being the Director of Multimedia for the ALA Model African Union, she is the co-founder of the African Film and Photography Society, a soon to be launched club at her school that will allow creatives, like herself, to come together and share their work. She is passionate about creating discourse around mental illness and feminism in the African context.

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Nkembo Kiala
EDUCATOR SCHOLAR / African Leadership Academy /
Luanda, Angola

Nkembo is an Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty member at African Leadership Academy and holds a degree in Political Sciences from the University of Pretoria. He was selected to be part of a group of young African leaders dedicated to the transformation of the continent called “Young African Leadership Initiative” (YALI) at the regional leadership Centre in South Africa. There, Nkembo was able to broaden his knowledge in Civic Leadership. He is also a member of the World Economic Forum Luanda Hub, forming part of the Global Shapers community. Nkembo is passionate about education and sees it as a key tool towards the eradication of poverty.

Contributed by
Youth Leadership Programs Manager
Student Stories , Educator Stories , Community & News