2 Illinois Students Awarded the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service

Christiana Lewis and Andres Vazquez, both juniors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, have received the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, also known as the Voyager Scholarship. Vazquez photo by Alonzo Zamarron; Lewis photo provided.

The Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service has been awarded to Christiana Lewis, a junior in psychology, and Andres Vazquez, a junior in urban and regional planning.

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Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, established the Voyager Scholarship to cultivate young leaders committed to addressing global challenges and generating positive change throughout the world.

Lewis collaborated with youth and education coordinators in a summer youth employment program run by the Chicago Housing Authority in partnership with the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. She is an America Reads/America Counts tutor and a member of the Child Life Association at Illinois, which helps children and families navigate difficult situations.

Vazquez volunteered with the local Special Service Area program in his South Chicago area to help local community development. He created a step-by-step procedure for local businesses to establish an internet presence in both English and Spanish as a native Spanish speaker. He also prepared a bilingual presentation to urge people of the community to use an application that improved safety, security, and well-being.

During the spring 2020 semester, he worked as a page for the United States Senate. He traveled to Costa Rica in 2022 with the Illinois Environment and Field Expedition to study sustainability practices and the use of regenerative agriculture on farms through community involvement, and he was a participant in the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment’s Environmental Leadership Program.

The program pays up to $50,000 in education-related expenditures, a $10,000 stipend, and free Airbnb accommodation for students between their junior and senior years to pursue a summer work-travel experience. Vazquez intends to intern at Barcelona’s Municipal Institute of Urban Planning to gain practical expertise in superblocks, which serve as a model for equitable high urban density. He wants to work in community development and urban economic development. Lewis would like to work with an organization that helps children have access to counseling and treatment, particularly in impoverished communities.

Two other Illinois students received the award in 2022, the inaugural year for the scholarship. “Illinois is one of a select few institutions to have multiple students selected in each year of the award, a testament to the great talents in our student body,” said David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois.

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