The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

When in Aspen…

Photo by Emily Rohme
Rithika traveled to Aspen with PMSD alumnus Emily Rohme as her mentor. They had the opportunity to interact with inspirational leaders in education, mental health, and business.

My trip to Aspen truly changed me…

As a Bezos Scholar, I had the honor of embarking on a week-long trip to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival for Week 1. The Bezos Scholarship Program is a program of the Bezos Family Foundation, an independent private foundation that champions the science of learning and its application.

Each year, 17 exceptional juniors from the U.S. and Africa, along with educators from each of their schools, are selected as Bezos Scholars.


At first, I must admit, I was extremely afraid. It felt like I was the only one concerned about hopping on a flight 1,990.8 mi away to hang out with strangers for a week. What if these people are crazy? What if my roommate is crazy? What if they think I’m weird? Am I really qualified to be here? And most importantly… WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE THE FOOD?

Despite my hesitations, my mom was quick to send me off. Her only word of advice to me was: Be strong.

Once I arrived, I quickly picked up on the saying, “When in Aspen…”

Everyone used it to “justify” their choices and actions no matter how silly or ridiculous it was. This mindset, along with my mom’s advice, silenced my worries and allowed me to have the most memorable experience I could imagine.

When in Aspen, I took risks.

Prior to the trip, I was told the Bezos Scholars would be the youngest attendees at the festival among some of the world’s most influential leaders.

How does one maintain composure after hearing that? I was sure that it would be challenging to earn the attention of any of these amazing people but to my surprise, people came to us!

By day two, I was asking random people if I could join them for lunch. Who would’ve known quesadillas could spark some of the most meaningful conversations?

When in Aspen, I learned.

Catherine Price explained why I should break up with my phone.

Monica Guzman taught me that, “we are so divided, we are blind.”

Maria Ressa revealed that it’s normal to feel like you don’t belong in any country or community.

Imani Perry emphasized that we must defend the rights of children to be thoroughly informed.

Eric Liu clarified that, “power is a capacity in which you ensure others do what they’re supposed to do.”

David Brooks highlighted that “people are dying to share their stories.”

Rainn Wilson described that “we are spiritual beings having human experiences.”

Mike Bezos articulated the importance of listening to what others have to say before sharing my story.

Jackie Bezos told me that it’s hard to be human.

Ultimately, every person I spoke to and learned from has impacted me in some way and I am forever grateful for them all.

When in Aspen, I tried new things.

This trip created an environment that encouraged me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. As someone who likes everything to be fully planned and organized, I was very uncomfortable when we were not given a schedule and minimal details. I realized after a day or so that I can’t prepare for everything.

I learned that I had the most fun when I wasn’t thinking ahead. This new mindset allowed me to enjoy the moment, which is something I plan to carry throughout my life. I also tried charcoal lemonade! I highly recommend giving it a try!

When in Aspen, I built courage.

Courage was my fuel when it came time for Q&A. With twenty seconds of courage, I would shoot my hand up high, eager to share my thoughts.

Courage also allowed me to converse with the most incredible people such as Sal Khan, Deb Roy, and John Mather.

When in Aspen, I had fun.

I ate the most enchanting food, captured magnificent pictures, and made life-long friendships within days.

It was beautiful to watch how fast humans could grow to love, care, and trust one another. Within a manner of hours, we were hugging, joking, teasing, laughing, and crying.

We all took this trip as an opportunity to be vulnerable around others and investigate our true self. I am truly grateful to have been able to share such a transformative experience with them.

My trip to Aspen was a dream and I am beyond thankful for how it has helped me grow.

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