The Bezos Scholarship Program: The Life Changing Experience at the Aspen Ideas Festival

Topics: Philanthropy

Common App Essay

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family

During retired astronaut Jeff Ashby’s discussion with the 2013 Bezos Scholars, he urged each of us to, “share your gifts with the world as you write your signature across the Earth.” That was the first instance during my life-changing, week-long experience at the Aspen Ideas Festival where I was called upon to pay forward the great privileges I’ve been afforded for the benefit of humanity.

The Bezos Scholars Program, designed to be a leadership development experience, provides students with the tools necessary to turn their “passions into action”. That week, numerous individuals appealed to the Bezos Scholars to lean into discomfort to enact change, not because we bore the responsibility, but because we had the opportunity; the opportunity granted us in the form of a guaranteed education and all the other benefits entailed by living in a first world country; the opportunity we were born into because of a single stroke of luck, that others were denied by a single stroke of misfortune.

From ages four to eight, I aspired to become a doctor, amass a decent fortune with which I could comfortably retire, and travel the world. From ages nine to sixteen, I strove to become a doctor/biomedical engineer, amass a decent fortune with which could comfortably retire and support my parents, and travel into space. Now, thanks in part to my experience as a Bezos scholar, I have but one goal, and that is to utilize the opportunities I’ve been giftedtoo benefit as many people as possible.

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Though I still would like to engineer a 3D printer capable of producing complex organs, and perhaps one day set foot on Mars, I can no longer stomach the idea of living a convenient, self-seeking life. How could I, when women like Shabana Basij Rasikh risk life and limb to provide quality education to girls living under oppressive regimes? When men like Rye Barcott, who already served his country as a marine, serve their global community by empowering youth in Kibera, Africa’s largest urban slum? Hearing wakened me to what it truly means to live a fulfilling life and challenged all my preconceived notions about philanthropy and accomplishment.

Thad once believed I was accomplished: a straight-A student, recipient of numerous awards, and a leader in my school. This I achieved while working at my parent’s family-operated Thai restaurant every weekend. Now I realize that thus far I’ve simply utilized my talents and opportunities to serve myself and further my life prospects. True accomplishment is embodied by my friend and fellow Bezos Scholar, Carlos Flores, who braves the risk of injury and death five months every year shedding light on the crippling poverty, inequality, and violence that exists in his native country of Honduras, all while studying for his SATs. Yet, Carlos remains modest and defers the well-deserved praise that others bestow upon him to the citizens he interviews Shabana. Rye. Carlos. They are my heroes. They have ineffably humbled, enlightened, and inspired me. I stepped off the tarmac at Aspen airport, shackled and blinded, only able to see the fleeting shadows upon the cave wall of my limited perspective. Now that I have been guided to the light, I feel overwhelming courage to share my gifts with the world, without fear of the outcome. I’ve started this process by planning my own Local Ideas Festival where I aim to inspire curiosity in my peers, connect them to various internship and job shadowing opportunities, and build a community within my school that fosters exploration and inquiry. But that is merely the beginning of my signature. To most powerfully pay forward the privileges I’ve been,n given I must, as Plato’s prisoner did in “The Allegory of the Cave,” return to my origins and help those still shackled. Today, I’ve just put one toe back into the cave.

Tomorrow, I plan to go spelunking.

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The Bezos Scholarship Program: The Life Changing Experience at the Aspen Ideas Festival. (2022, Jun 18). Retrieved from

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