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DL’s Schumacher, Fritz-Staley chosen for Bezos Scholars Program

Detroit Lakes residents Karin Fritz-Staley, left, and Anna Schumacher have been chosen for the 2016 Bezos Scholars Program, which gets underway this weekend with an all-expenses-paid trip to the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colo. DETROIT LAKES TRIBUNE/Vicki Gerdes

This coming weekend will be a special one for Detroit Lakes High School student Anna Schumacher.

Anna and her advisor, Karin Fritz-Staley, are headed for Aspen, Colo., to take part in the Aspen Ideas Festival, which according to its website,, is a diverse gathering of scholars and leaders from around the world, “to present and discuss the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times.”

Schumacher and Fritz-Staley are among 30 U.S. high school and African Leadership Academy students and educators who were selected to attend the festival free of charge, courtesy of the Bezos Scholars Program (BSP).

“There were over 250 applicants,” Schumacher said.

“The Bezos Family Foundation pays for the entire thing,” added Fritz-Staley — including air fare, hotel accommodations, meals and more.

“It’s a free week in Aspen!” Schumacher added, the big grin on her face advertising her excitement.

Well, not quite a week. BSP pays for its scholars to spend five days and five nights at the festival, which provides “exceptional opportunities to interact with public officials, artists, scientists, authors, business executives, scholars, economists, foreign policy specialists, entrepreneurs, and leaders of all kinds — on footpaths and sidewalks, over lunch on the lawn or coffee at the espresso bar, in auditoriums and in small seminar rooms,” according to the website.

There are over 350 presenters scheduled in all, Fritz-Staley added, and the students and educators will have separate itineraries for the most part.

“The purpose is for us to become inspired to make a change… to identify a need and try to come up with a way to address it,” said Schumacher.

Once their time at the festival is concluded, the “work” part of the Bezos Scholar Program begins.

“It will be my job to put on a local ideas festival, focused on one need in our community,” says Schumacher, noting that she will be responsible for putting together the content, organizing volunteers and speakers, locating a venue and staging the event, which will be open to the public.

“The Bezos Foundation provides the leadership training to give us the skills to host our own festival,” she added.

To provide seed money for the local festival, Schumacher can apply for a grant of up to $1,000 from the Bezos foundation, Fritz-Staley added.

Like the application process for the program itself, it will be a competitive grant, said Schumacher.

“I heard about it (the BSP program) as a freshman, and wanted to do it,” she said, though as the program is only open to high school juniors, she had to wait a couple of years before she could apply.

This year’s BSP drew an applicant pool representing nearly every U.S. state. Students were chosen based on “academic rigor, intellectual curiosity and demonstrated commitment to change,” according to the press release announcing Schumacher’s selection.

Bezos Scholars Program

The Bezos Scholars Program (BSP) at the Aspen Institute is a year-long leadership development program for public high school juniors and educators.

Founded by the Bezos Family Foundation in 2005, the BSP selects 30 top high school students and exceptional educators each year to participate in the leadership development program.

It begins with an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival and continues through the following school year, when Bezos Scholar pairs return home, participate in virtual trainings, and launch sustainable community change programs, known as Local Ideas Festivals (LIFs), that transform their schools and communities.

Scholars choose the theme of their LIF based on the intersection of their passion and a true community need. Previous Festivals have been organized around juvenile justice, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education, civic engagement, and peer-to-peer mentoring.

For 11 years, Bezos Scholar teams have mobilized communities around a range of critical issues including alleviating rural poverty, increasing awareness of social justice, creating healthier environments, addressing literacy, and more.

Since its inception, nearly 40,000 people have attended LIFs. BSP also reaches an international audience, with the South African Ideas Festival organized by Scholars at the African Leadership Academy.

“We are thrilled to welcome another exceptional group of leaders into BSP,” said Nicole Hanson, Youth Leadership Manager at the Bezos Family Foundation. “This diverse group brings a rich array of experiences, passions, and ideas to a program known for catalyzing big ideas.”

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Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454