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Jan 9, 2023

Becoming a Voyager Scholar, Meeting President Obama, and Working Towards a Better World

By Kesan Ucheya, Kenan Scholars Class of 2024

In November, I had the opportunity to travel to New York to attend the Fall Summit for the inaugural cohort of the Voyager Scholarship, a program developed by the collaboration of Barack Obama and AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky. The Voyager Scholarship was created to shape young leaders to solve society’s toughest challenges, a goal that is also shared by the Kenan Scholars program. The two-day summit was a unique experience that allowed me to grow both personally and professionally in a short span of time.

On day one of the summit, my cohort attended the Democracy Forum, a newly formed annual event created by the Obama Foundation. While there, I was able to connect with several prominent global leaders and Obama Foundation affiliates, hear their remarkable stories, and receive inspirational advice. On the second day, I engaged in a series of workshops designed to help design our Summer Voyage, a funded work-travel experience that Voyager Scholars undergo the summer after their junior year. My focus-area of choice was the economic development of low-income communities. We closed the day off with a small, intimate Q&A session with President Obama, Brian Chesky, and Tar Heel Alum Melody Barnes. It was inspiring to hear their responses to our thought-provoking questions.

Following the event, I had the opportunity to meet President Obama, and he thanked me for my commitment to working towards a better world. My time in New York was transformative and one that I will never forget. Not only did I receive much needed guidance on my Summer Voyage and gain exposure to a robust network of global change-makers, but I was able to foster deep and meaningful friendships with like-minded, young, emerging leaders within my scholarship cohort, who will be fill the shoes of the leaders of today.


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