The Voyager Scholarship, also known as the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, was created by former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to help shape the next generation of public service leaders. It provides up to $50,000 in last dollar financial aid for recipients’ junior and senior years of their undergraduate education.

Kennedy was notified in August that he was a recipient of this prestigious award. He was one of 100 rising college juniors across the nation to be selected, with students from 35 states and territories and 70 colleges and universities represented.

Voyager scholars gain access to a vast network of leaders and mentors as well as an invitation to a fall summit, where they have the opportunity to meet with Obama and Chesky to discuss the importance of empathy and understanding in leadership.

“To be a recipient of this scholarship means there is a lot of responsibility,” Kennedy said. “I hope I can make an impact through this scholarship. I know that I have prepared myself academically up to this point and for my future, but there is always learning to do.”

In addition, recipients are provided with a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing to pursue a work-travel experience, known as a voyage, during the summer between their junior and senior year. The voyage is designed for students to broaden their horizons and explore careers related to public service. Kennedy is interested in repatriation work and is currently planning his voyage around that interest.  

Kennedy considers his time at USD as being extremely valuable in helping prepare him for this scholarship. Specifically, his involvement in the Honors Program helped him not only find and apply for this scholarship but has also allowed him to excel academically.

“I would credit the USD Honors Program for keeping my academic course load rigorous,” Kennedy said. “There are a variety of interesting courses I have taken through the USD Honors Program that just really have exposed me to different disciplines.”

Kennedy’s time at USD has also been shaped by the many extracurriculars he has been involved in. His freshman year, he was on the executive team for Tiospaye Student Council, and during his sophomore year, he helped found the Sungmanitu Oyate drum group, which has been active at several campus events. Kennedy said he has also enjoyed his time as part of the Wiyuskinyan Unpi Tipi.

“I’m really grateful that I chose USD for my undergraduate education,” Kennedy said. “USD has definitely exposed me to a lot of different issue areas and has really helped me with my personal success. USD also taught me the skill of networking, which is very important for the future."

Currently, Kennedy is studying abroad at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, where he is taking courses in Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Indigenous Ethics & Protocol and Development of Indigenous-Settler Relations in Canada.

Kennedy’s future goal is to work with tribal communities, particularly in the legal field. He plans to attend law school and earn his J.D. and a certificate in Indian Law, with hopes of working directly with tribes in Montana.

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