Update: In 2021, I gave away 12 scholarships in 12 months. I'll likely be launching additional scholarships in the future, but in the meantime, I would encourage you to start your own scholarship or set up a scholarship in memory of someone.
All 12 scholarships launched in 2021 had a goal to support and amplify a particular cause, like supporting minorities or green innovation.
Although I'll be selecting the scholarship topics and winners (along with partners – more on this below), you can suggest topics and contribute to any scholarships that resonate with you.
You can follow the entire process, including up to date information on funding, partners, winners, and more. But if you'd like to learn more about the "why" behind the project, keep reading...
One of the most unique traits of humans, relative to other animals, is our ability to deeply understand a topic and then codify that information such that we can document and transfer our learnings to other humans. This is how we continue to evolve as a species and build the world’s knowledge base.
This is education.
Education, like many other important topics, tends to get muddied with controversy. People argue whether education should be public or private, whether schools should focus more on practical thinking instead of memorization, or how much colleges should charge, among many other debates.
Higher education, in particular, has been getting a lot of flack recently. I can understand why. Certain systems put education into a space of privilege or make it "accessible" today, but leave people riddled with debt tomorrow. Regardless of your stance on how education should be administered, there is one thing that's hard to debate: education powers a better world.
Like many, I wish that education was free for all. But sometimes, we must meet the world where it's at. And that means doing whatever we can to enable more people to get a high-quality education, whether it's through a traditional institution or otherwise. It also means acknowledging that we're in a highly dynamic world and should do what we can to limit the switching costs for people that may have invested in learning one thing, but have so much more to offer.
To this end, I'd like to briefly share my experience with financial aid:
Throughout university, I was responsible for paying my way through. I was luckier than some, to live in a country where higher education came to the tune of $10k/year, instead of $50k. But still, as a student navigating this world shortly after leaving the nest... there was no way that I could've gotten my education without financial aid.
Just as importantly, I would have never been able to explore some of the more formative experiences of my early adulthood, like going on exchange to Sweden or being able to pivot careers without decades of loan debt hanging over my head. Both of these were a result of a lot of financial aid throughout university, across loans, grants, and scholarships that amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.
I was fortunate enough to have access to this aid. But many do not.
And here's the thing: the more people that have access to higher education, the higher likelihood that we'll all benefit from a brighter future.
Imagine if Bill Gates never met Paul Allen or Steve Ballmer at Harvard? What if Larry Page and Sergei Brin never did their PhD on search engines at Stanford that eventually led to Google.
Learning to Give
Now, I'm no where close to the wealth of some of the people above. But, I learned how to create a scholarship and a valuable lesson from Calvin Rosser – who guided me through putting this initiative together with Bold – that if you don't get in the habit of giving back now, you never will. We're so focused on the hedonic treadmill that we're always chasing greener pastures. More money. More followers. Always more... but also always for ourselves.
By giving back early, we're reminding ourselves that there is no "end" or no day where you have enough to start giving back.
Learning to give is just like learning any other skill like coding, writing, or public speaking. It feels uncomfortable at first, but you can get better at it. It takes practice for it to go from being foreign to a reflex.
I have benefited tangibly from people that have looked around and thought, "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the kindness of many people along the way." Now, it's my turn. This is my first of hopefully many attempts to give back in some small form. Maybe one day, it'll be much more substantial.
I chose to go with the medium of scholarships because I know first-hand how they can have a very direct and tangible impact on a person. Often, when you give to charities, your money gets dispersed in ways that you can't really follow. Some goes to marketing. Some goes to paying staff. Some goes go toward your intended cause. But the beauty with scholarships is that there is a direct path. And sometimes, you can change one life that will eventually change many.
That is exactly why I chose to call the scholarships series AMPLIFY, because they can have such an outsized impact.
I experienced this as a judge of the Toptal Women's scholarship during my time there. We were able to support such incredible women, like Martha who learned to code on paper, pieced together enough money to take a nanodegree on Udacity, and with the scholarship planned to build her e-learning chatbot, enabling more women in Africa to learn to code. She also planned to buy a set of Raspberry Pis to give more females access to the tech that she initially didn't have. One scholarship was awarded to one individual, but is likely to impact many, many more.
I’ve chosen to dedicate the first few scholarships to things that are close to my heart, inspired by the Elevate Series by Calvin Rosser.
The first three scholarships are:
- Amplify Women in STEM: We live in the information era, where technology underpins so much of our daily lives. Technology influences the way we communicate, learn, entertain. And it has an increasing influence on key issues like the economy, foreign policy, privacy, healthcare, and more. We need a diverse group of people designing our future and women have been historically underserved in STEM.
- Amplify Continuous Learning: Education is an opportunity, but also a mindset. And we believe that it’s important to foster this mindset within people of any age. This scholarship is in place to enable lifelong learnings that want to acquire a new skill that will be transformative for them, whether it be learning to code, digital marketing, writing, or whatever will have a lasting impact on their lives.
- Amplify Green Innovation: I believe that climate change is the most pressing issue our collective race is facing. And while there is reason for concern, there is also one very clear reason for optimism: innovation. History demonstrates that there’s almost nothing humans cannot achieve when they’re put to the test and have the right incentives.
These are the first 3 of 12 scholarships, but 9 more will be announced over the next three quarters. One scholarship will be awarded at the end of each month in 2021. And I'd love to involve you in the process:
- All scholarships will start at $500. This may not seem like much, but it can be enough for someone to take a nano-degree, to present their work at a conference, or just to help make their next rent payment so they can focus on their projects. And it doesn't stop with me... I've set up this project so that others can join in...
- If you’d like to give back, you can donate to one of the scholarships that I’ve created. If you donate $500 or more to a single scholarship, I’ll name you as a partner on that scholarship. Of course, none of this money goes to me – it all goes to the scholarship winner(s). Partners will be featured on the AMPLIFY page and will have the option in participating in the selection process. To see how this looks, check out the Amplify Green Innovation Scholarship, which I created in collaboration with Calvin.
- You can contribute to scholarships that align with your values. Due to the platform that I'm partnering with (Bold.org), the minimum contribution is $50
- If you don't see one to your liking yet, you can suggest future scholarships that will be released every quarter. You can see the launch calendar here.
- Of course, if you'd like to start your own scholarship, independent of the AMPLIFY X series, I encourage you to do so!
If you've made it to the end of this piece, thank you for reading. I'm excited for this to be a start to my journey in giving back, and I hope that you'll join me.
If you'd like to follow along the way, you can join the conversation or subscribe below for updates:
Who is eligible to apply to these scholarships?
Do I need to be a student to apply?
Not necessarily! Each scholarship has it's own unique scholarship criteria and some do not require that you are pursuing post-secondary education.
Is there an age requirement in order to apply?
There is no age requirement to applying, however there may be other requirements in order to qualify. Please see the individual scholarship pages for more details.
What is the minimum donation required?
The minimum donation on Bold.org is $50.
I chose to go with the medium of scholarships because I know first-hand how they can have a very direct and tangible impact on a person. That is exactly why I chose to call the scholarships series AMPLIFY, because they can have such an outsized impact.
If I donate to a scholarship, can I help choose the winner?
I've set up this initiative such that people can partner with me on scholarships, if they contribute $500 or more to that scholarship. I can't incorporate every donor's feedback into the decision, but I do want to give larger donors the ability to have a say in the process. Other donors will be featured on the scholarship page, but not engage with the decision process.
How can I start my own scholarship?
There are several scholarship platforms out there, but I chose to work with Bold because they make it incredibly easy for you to set up scholarships, operationalize the process, be compliant, and allow others to contribute as well. You can follow these instructions online to create your own scholarship or set up a memorial scholarship.
PS: If you liked this article, you might also enjoy my podcast on all types of things like tip culture, technology people feared, or the the most influential artist you've never heard of, or my latest project.