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Las Vegas native awarded prestigious Obama Foundation scholarship

Las Vegas native Jasmin Valdivieso Sanches is among 100 recipients of a prestigious scholarship for college students who aspire to go into public service.

The Obama Foundation and Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO, announced the recipients of the two-year Voyager Scholarship on Aug. 22.

Recipients — all college juniors — will receive up to $50,000 in financial aid, and a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing for one summer to pursue a work-travel project. They’ll also attend a fall summit and be connected with a network of leaders.

Valdivieso Sanches, 22, attends the University of Rhode Island where she studies political science, and gender and women’s studies. She wants to pursue a career in policy research.

She said she learned of the Voyager Scholarship from mentors at her university, which had a recipient in last year’s inaugural cohort.

“They thought I was a great fit,” Valdivieso Sanches said. “They were really confident in me. At that point, I wasn’t as confident as they were in me.”

Valdivieso Sanches said the application took up a lot of her free time and that it was a long, extensive process. “I really had to prioritize this over homework and things like that.”

‘Very grateful’

She found out in early June that she was named a finalist.

“I was already very grateful that I was a finalist,” she said, noting how competitive and prestigious the scholarship is.

Then in mid-July Valdivieso Sanches found out she was selected.

“Michelle and I can’t wait to work with these talented young people over the next few years as they pursue careers in public service,” former President Barack Obama said in a news release. “Their dedication to public service and their determination to solve global challenges inspire hope for a brighter future. We know that this scholarship will not only change their lives, but the world.”

Chesky said he’s excited to see the impact the next class of scholarship recipients will have on society.

“These are some of the brightest young minds in the country and this scholarship will help unleash the potential we know exists in them,” he said in the release.

Pursuing a project in Europe

Valdivieso Sanches attended magnet schools while growing up in the Las Vegas Valley. She graduated in 2019 from Southeast Career Technical Academy, where she was in the cosmetology program.

She said she ended up in Rhode Island for college because she wanted to study on the East Coast. “That’s always been a goal of mine for college.”

She enlisted in the Rhode Island Army National Guard three years ago to help pay for college.

Valdivieso Sanches said she’s looking forward to a trip through the scholarship program next summer. She’ll pursue a project in three European countries that takes a comparative research approach to immigration reform.

Valdivieso Sanches said she plans to volunteer at organizations that serve a large immigrant population in order to see the effects countries’ immigration policies have on their lives.

She said she aims to better understand what immigration reform could look like in the United States.

Valdivieso Sanches said she’s grateful for the Obama Foundation and that the scholarship has changed her life for the better.

“It’s definitely something,” she said, “that I didn’t think was going to happen.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on X.

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