Pebblebrook Student Named 2024 Bezos Scholar

Pebblebrook Bezos Scholar

The Bezos Scholars Program (BSP) recently announced that Pebblebrook High School student Lizzie Casaleno and educator Amanda Xiques are part of the 2024 Scholars cohort. Lizzie is one of only 12 Scholars representing 11 states this year selected for the program, which inspires and challenges young people and an educator they nominated for support to address issues the scholars are passionate about in their communities. The Pebblebrook Scholars are the only ones from Georgia. Lizzie%20Casaleno_Pebblebrook%20High%20School.jpg

Scholars are chosen based on commitment to their education, demonstrated leadership abilities, willingness to embrace challenges, and the desire to create positive change in their communities. 

“I’m excited to be a Bezos Scholar and connect with other like-minded Scholars passionate about impacting their community,” Lizzie said after learning she had been selected. 

The Bezos Scholars Program is a year-long leadership development program for rising high school seniors and an educator from their school. It begins with an opportunity to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival and continues through the following school year when Bezos Scholars return home, participate in virtual training, and launch sustainable community change projects that transform their schools and communities. For 20 years, Scholar teams have mobilized communities around various critical issues. 

Lizzie is a first-generation Honduran American whose community is comprised mainly of Hispanic and Black first-generation students. She has a Functional Neurological Disorder and aims to provide a positive representation of people with disabilities. Lizzie is passionate about changing the stigma that surrounds disability and education and is dedicated to making a more welcoming atmosphere for students with disabilities. She is also passionate about STEM and aims to share this passion with other young women of color. She started her organization, South Cobb in Tech, which teaches young kids how to code and work with new technologies. 

Lizzie will be supported by her Pebblebrook teacher, Ms. Xiques, who will serve as her educator scholar. 

Amanda%20Xiques_Pebblebrook%20High%20School.jpgAs a social studies teacher at a Title 1 high school, Ms. Xiques stresses that mentors, guidance, and language classes are crucial for student success and parent involvement. The Pebblebrook teacher is passionate about inspiring students to continue learning outside the classroom. She recently ran her first race and hopes to finish a half marathon by the end of the year. Outside the classroom, Ms. Xiques enjoys hiking in the North Georgia Mountains and trying new foods in her international community. As a Scholar, she is excited about collaborating with other educators to implement community engagement, foster curiosity, and provide students with opportunities for self-expression.

The program begins with virtual community building and identifying the Scholars’ sense of purpose before embarking on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Aspen Ideas Festival. There, students engage in leadership training, panel discussions, and exclusive conversations with many of the world’s most acclaimed global leaders. This experience sets the stage for the challenge ahead: launching sustainable community change projects to transform their communities. 

The topics and themes of Scholar projects are as diverse as the Scholars themselves and designed to align Scholars’ passions with an existing community need. Many projects address the climate crisis, gender and education equality, financial literacy, and advocating for historically oppressed and underrepresented communities to have better and more access to opportunities. Since the program’s inception, more than 200 projects have been launched by Scholars.

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