Grade 11 student, Aayushi Garg, and IB Program Coordinator, Mr. Sean Lewis, have been selected as part of the 2023 Scholars cohort of the Bezos Scholars Program (BSP). This achievement reflects their commitment to education, demonstrated leadership abilities, and their desire to create positive change in the community. Let us take a closer look at their inspiring stories and the impact of the Bezos Scholars Program.
Aayushi: Empowering Youth for Change
Aayushi Garg, a proud queer, second-generation, South Asian woman, firmly believes in equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of class, race, or gender. Growing up in the diverse city of Los Angeles, she is shaped by its ever-changing nature and thrives on collaboration. Aayushi is described as someone who is always seeking the next adventure. Her passion lies in engaging young people in social justice initiatives, ranging from women's rights to immigrant equity and queer justice. As the captain of her Speech and Debate team and a leader of the "Girl Up" and "Girls in STEM" clubs, Garg proudly supports young women in finding their voices and advocates for a brighter future for all.
When asked what this scholarship means to her, Aayushi lit up and explained the great significance of partaking in this selective program. "Perfect for me," is how Garg describes this opportunity as it is a leadership program where students are able to converse with community leaders who assist students in their year-long Community Change Project as well as collaborate with other scholars worldwide. For Aayushi, this scholarship will aid in her (and Mr. Lewis's) Community Change Project which will focus on immigrants, first-generation students, and "the college process". This topic hits close to home, as Garg looks to her own experiences - where her parents, as first-generation students, did not receive adequate college preparedness resources, as well as friends who are struggling with the same issues. Her ultimate goal is to garner attention and resources to combat the gap between high school and higher education for first-generation and immigrant students.
As she reflected, Aayushi gave thanks to her parents for their constant support throughout the entire process. She also acknowledged her friends, "they were there for me when I was panicking about my essay not being good enough and in preparation for my interview. A couple of them took me out to dinner and it was so rewarding to know I have this support group."
For students thinking about applying to a scholarship program such as BSP, Aayushi advises, "Make sure that you shine through. Talk about yourself, what you're passionate about, not just what you think they'll want to hear. If you let yourself come through, that is what really matters." Garg explains how important it is to include one's personality and passion in the application and interview because these scholarships receive countless applicants and can become difficult to differentiate between candidates.
Mr. Lewis: Guiding the Way
Joining Aayushi in the Bezos Scholars Program is Mr. Sean Lewis an educator and IB Program Coordinator at Granada Hills Charter. Mr. Lewis brings a wealth of experience and passion to his pursuits. As a dedicated home cook, former journalist, and published author, Mr. Lewis appreciates the exploration of the world through food and literature. His greatest joy stems from his role as a parent and the wonder and curiosity he witnesses in his own children. As an International Baccalaureate (IB) Coordinator at the School, Mr. Lewis firmly believes in empowering students to take ownership of their education, helping them find and seize opportunities to grow.
One of these opportunities is in working with Aayushi on their Community Change Project for the Bezos Scholars Program (BSP). Both educator and scholar are passionate about leading impactful solutions in their community. Mr. Lewis explained his experience with BSP with a previous student back in 2019 and as a result of the opportunity, connections, and experience, he witnessed this student excel in their academic career.
"I know [BSP] opens a lot of doors, so, I am excited to see it impact Aayushi. I am looking forward to working with the professionals to help her develop her project, implement her ideas, and provide resources. This is something we already do in the IB Program, but in BSP, it is an expansion of what we do in really meaningful ways," (Mr. Lewis)
The Bezos Scholars Program: Inspiring Change and Leadership
The Bezos Scholars Program serves as a year-long leadership development program for rising high school seniors and an educator from their school. It offers a transformative journey that begins with virtual community building and culminates in an all-expenses-paid trip to the Aspen Ideas Festival, an extraordinary event where students engage in leadership training, panel discussions, and exclusive conversations with renowned global leaders. This immersive experience sets the stage for the scholars' next challenge: launching sustainable community change projects to transform their schools and communities.
Transformative Projects for a Better Future
The projects initiated by Bezos Scholars cover a diverse range of topics and themes that align with their passions and address pressing community needs. Over the years, nearly 200 projects have been launched by Scholars, making a significant impact in their communities and beyond.
Let us congratulate Aayushi and Mr. Lewis for their selection as part of the Bezos Scholars Program 2023 cohort. Their journey of personal growth, collaboration with global scholars, and the positive change they aim to bring to their communities is one to keep an eye on. Their participation in this program reflects the Highlander values of commitment to education, leadership development, and creating a better future for all. Wishing them the best in this experience!