Now in its third year, the scholarship program at The Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College is not slowing down. With six new students coming to Babson with the title of “Blank Leadership Scholar,” the moniker represents more than just an honor for its recipients. It’s a call to action, a network and support system, and a chance to grow as a leader on and off campus.
“Being a Blank Scholar means validation, support, and community,” Layla Al-rashed ’26 said. “Being welcomed into this group alongside the other incredibly talented scholars is a very special opportunity to create lasting connections and support one another as we each begin our careers.”
As a cohort, the Class of 2026 Blank Leadership Scholars—including Al-rashed, Lilly Bedard ’26, Kathy Do ’26, Cristina Gonzalez ’26, William Holland ’26, and Kaitlyn Pristawa ’26—cover significant ground. They are leaders on the athletic field, helped their high schools navigate the COVID-19 crisis, and have led service initiatives in their communities as teenagers. They hail from across the country, from Arizona to Rhode Island. They have business ideas and aspirations—and the experience to back them up.
Most importantly, their experience embodies the core values of Arthur M. Blank ’63, H’98 and his businesses: Put People First, Listen and Respond, Include Everyone, Innovate Continuously, Lead by Example, and Give Back to Others. With those principles in their back pocket, these six students are ready for the opportunities that being a Blank Leadership Scholar bring.
Kaitlyn Pristawa ’26 is a softball catcher and currently works at Planet Fastpitch, a softball training company, and she recently helped lead a donation campaign to collect softball equipment for young players in Ghana.
“I had to get the word out there, so I learned a lot about marketing and advertising,” Pristawa said. “There was a huge room of donations. It was so rewarding to look at and think about how this will be making people happy. That was a great experience because I was able to combine a lot of my passions and I hope to do a lot of that in the future.”
After his high school hockey career ended, William Holland ’26 hoped to continue it on a junior team during a gap year. Unfortunately, he was cut from the first team he tried for, leaving him only weeks from the season without a placement. After ringing about a half-dozen teams, a coach from Edmonton reached out about a tryout. “I didn’t even have my own gear because it got lost in the airport,” Holland said. “A few days later when the season started, they wanted to sign me. I was pretty excited, having gone through (getting cut) weeks earlier.”
Holland didn’t wallow in the stress of being cut but channeled it into something productive. It’s how he approaches most challenges, including more global ones. During the last few years of high school, during the height of the pandemic, he helped start an initiative called Healthy Deerfield, which aimed to give younger students at the school a sense of normalcy during remote learning and isolation.
Business has always been a family affair for Kathy Do ’26. Her mom has been a small-business owner since before Do was born, running her own nail salon in their local area of Laveen, Arizona. “My mom is the first figure I looked up to in terms of going into the business realm,” Do said. “The fact that she did this and I’ve seen her grow with her business, it’s motivating to me.”
That motivation grew as Do did. Throughout high school, she has helped her cousin with her business selling resin keychains and other goods via social media. “Without my cousin, I would have to learn everything at Babson,” Do said. “But (because of this experience), I know a little of it.”
“Being welcomed into this group alongside the other incredibly talented scholars is a very special opportunity to create lasting connections and support one another as we each begin our careers.”
Layla Al-rashed ’26
Everything Cristina Gonzalez ’26, of Weston, Florida, does comes back to the community. Whether that’s her school, her family and friends, or her culture, she thrives off camaraderie with those around her. “To me, ‘home’ is not a place but rather a feeling of comfort that I find when I am near the people and things I love,” Gonzalez said.
She sees education—her own as well as that of others—as a crucial part of that community, too. Along with being an active member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish club, Gonzalez was a math tutor in high school. She believes expanding access to education will open a portal to more positive societal change.
For Lillian “Lilly” Bedard ’26, who has played lacrosse since she was 8, a surgery that sidelined her sophomore-year season turned into an opportunity. This setback gave her a chance to reflect on the role she wanted the sport to play in her life going forward and where her priorities lie. “I took it as an opportunity to figure out what I really want out of my life and where it’s taking me,” Bedard said. “I’m actually really grateful for the experience, turning that challenge into gratitude because it brought me to Babson.”
Bedard is a leader on the field, taking on a coach-like role on her team in her junior year, running practices and setting lineups. “I know lacrosse had such a huge impact on my life, so the fact that I was able to give that to someone else and mentor them and make them feel happy and included, was probably the proudest moment of my life.”
Layla Al-rashed ’26, the daughter of Moroccan and Jordanian immigrants, is a young activist in Las Vegas. “I love to help those in need and speak up for those who may not feel like they have a voice in this world,” Al-rashed said.
She co-founded and led the Nevada chapter of Youth Against Sexual Violence (YASV), putting on school events, charity drives for women’s shelters, and workshops that teach healthy relationships and help survivors escape unhealthy situations. On top of that, she offers free tutoring, hosts clean-ups as part of her school’s environment club, and volunteers with the National Honor Society.
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