The Bezos Scholars Program (BSP) is proud to announce Charlottesville High School student Cole Fairchild and educator Matt Shields as part of the 2018 cohort of Scholars. The Bezos Scholars Program inspires and challenges young people to act on their passions and collaborate to address community needs.

Cole is passionate about solving problems and innovating by studying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). He said, “I enjoy a variety of activities, from cooking to sports to film, but observing and experiencing innovation is my true passion. Finding a new way to solve a problem will never fail to excite me.”

Cole is a big proponent of STEM education, reflected through his involvement in his school’s engineering program and clubs. After school, he is a hurdler and captain of his track and field team, an all-state Lincoln-Douglas debate competitor, a member of the Youth City Council, and has represented his high school on the Charlottesville Youth Design Committee. He is working to achieve greater representation of typically underserved students in institutions of higher education. Outside of school, Cole founded Cville Love Birds with his brother, a company that provides doves for release to celebrate special occasions.

The 2018 applicant pool was the most competitive in program history, drawing the largest number of candidates, with applicants from nearly every U.S. state. Scholars are selected based on demonstrated leadership abilities, willingness to embrace challenges, and the desire to create lasting change in their communities.

Cole will be supported by his educator scholar Matt Shields, an educator at Charlottesville High School. Matt has been an educator for 13 years and is the Engineering Program Director at Charlottesville High School.

Matt said the following about the opportunity to support these young leaders, “I have spent my years as an educator learning how to get out of the way of my students.  Young people possess remarkable passion and creativity; my role is to foster it.”

The Bezos Family Foundation annually selects rising public high school seniors who apply with an educator partner to the year-long leadership development program, founded in 2005. The program begins with an all-expenses paid trip to the Aspen Ideas Festival. After attending the Festival, Scholars return home to organize their own community change projects, known as Local Ideas Festivals (LIFs). 

The Scholars’ varied interests and passions shine through their LIF, which also intersect with the unique opportunities and needs of their communities. Though the possibilities are limitless, previous LIFs have centered on topics like the arts, global issues, the environment, education,health, and civic engagement. Since the program’s inception, roughly 48,000 attendees have participated in a LIF.

The Bezos Scholars Program is a year-long leadership development program for rising high school seniors and their educators from public schools. The program begins with a free trip to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival and continues through the following school year when Bezos Scholars return home to participate in virtual trainings and launch sustainable community change projects which transform their schools and communities. Since 2005, Scholar teams have mobilized communities around a range of critical issues and go on to tackle impressive challenges in college and career.