JANS – Kennedy Pierce, a junior political science student at Jackson State University, traveled to Chicago as a 2023-2025 recipient of the Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholarship for Public Service. The Voyager Scholarship was created by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and the Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, to help shape young leaders who can bridge divides and help solve the world’s biggest challenges.
“This scholarship will allow me to focus on a public service career instead of the burden of college debt. When I first found out, it felt unreal, and it still feels unreal. I don’t think I’m going to believe it until I’m in the same room as all of the leaders and, hopefully, President Obama and Brian Chesky,” said Pierce.
Funded by a $100 million personal contribution from Chesky to the Obama Foundation, the Voyager Scholarship is a two-year program for students across the U.S. in their junior and senior year of college who are committed to pursuing careers that serve the public and their communities.
Pierce, an aspiring president of the United States, seeks to pursue a graduate degree in public policy and ultimately earn a doctoral degree prior to running for office. Pierce is also interested in working in the office of the governor, in addition to becoming a member of the city council in her hometown of Chicago.
She believes that all of her hard work is finally paying off.
“That’s my ultimate goal. Ever since I was little, people would ask me what I wanted to do, and I would say, ‘I want to be president.’ I also want to start my own nonprofit organization that focuses on uplifting the Black community in every aspect, whether it be leadership training, jobs, providing housing, and just overall giving back to the community,” said Pierce.
The Voyager Scholarship is open to students entering their junior year of college at an accredited four-year college or university in the U.S. who have demonstrated a financial need and are U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or DACA recipients. Furthermore, the scholarship will bring together 100 students from across the United States who share a curiosity about the world and the conviction to want to make positive change within it. Scholarship recipients are also eligible for:
Up to $50,000 in financial aid
Students will receive up to $25,000 per year in “last dollar” financial aid for their junior and senior college years. This financial aid should alleviate the burden of college debt so that students can afford to pursue a career in public service.
Students will receive a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing to pursue a summer work-travel experience between their junior and senior years of college. The students will design their Summer Voyage to gain exposure to new communities and experience in a chosen field.
10-year travel stipend
After graduation, Airbnb will give the students a $2,000 Airbnb travel credit every year for 10 years, totaling $20,000. This will allow students to broaden their horizons and forge new connections throughout their public service careers.
Students will be invited each fall to an annual summit to help define and inspire their public service journey.
Network of leaders
Throughout the program, students will be invited to an ongoing speaker series, giving them access to a network of leaders. This network of leaders will expose them to new areas of service and innovations happening in their fields. After graduation, they will join the Obama Foundation’s global community, providing them with foundation resources and programming.
Pierce is a member of the Jackson State University W.E.B. DuBois Honors College, Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society, and the Service Ambassador organization.