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Fantastic Voyage 


Edwin Santos
Photo courtesy of Edwin Santos

Edwin Santos had a hunch about the identity of the special guest expected to join the September 13 Zoom call announcing the recipients of the inaugural Voyager Scholarship, sponsored by the Obama Foundation and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.
Even still, Santos, SPA/BA ’24, MPA ’25, was gob smackedgobsmacked when former President Barack Obama appeared on his screen. 
“I want you—once you get off the Zoom—to call up your mom or your dad or grandparents and let them know that Obama said, ‘They done good,’” he told awardees. “They deserve a lot of credit for how far you’ve already come and how far I’m confident you’ll go.”
The 44th president’s words resonated with Santos, a first-generation college student from Woodbridge, Virginia. 
“I kind of teared up listening to him talk about family,” he says. “Until this summer, my family hadn’t even been back to El Salvador since they came to America more than 30 years ago. I got to see the country they are from, where they grew up. My dad didn’t finish high school and he made sacrifices for me. And now I’m earning this [scholarship] from the [former] president.”
The second-year legal studies major, who’s also working towards toward a master’s in public administration, will receive $50,000 in financial aid for the final two years of college, a $10,000 stipend, and Airbnb credits for a “summer voyage” anywhere in the world between his junior and senior years for work focused on public service. Santos, an aspiring immigration lawyer, plans to travel across Europe, working with nonprofits on prison reform. 
“I’m excited to visit other countries, see the world, and learn,” says Santos, who interned last summer with CAIR Coalition, a DC nonprofit that works with immigrants facing deportation.  
Voyager Scholars will also receive $2,000 annually in Airbnb credits for the decade following graduation. 
The inaugural cohort includes 100 students from 35 states and territories and 70 colleges and institutions. Chesky contributed $100 million to the fund, which is administered by the Obama Foundation. 
“Michelle and I know that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to create it,” Obama said. “These young Voyagers believe in a fairer and more inclusive world, and they’re ready to help us address important challenges in new ways. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish through public service.”