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U student receives inaugural Voyager Scholarship from Obama Foundation

Abukar Hassan

Fifteen years ago, Abukar Hassan, his mother and six siblings emigrated to the United States from Egypt without a cent in their bank account, speaking little English. Last week, after learning that he had been chosen as one of just 100 students from across the country to receive a highly prestigious scholarship, the University of Utah junior found himself on a Zoom call with former President Barack Obama.

“He said one thing that struck me,” says Hassan, a student in the David Eccles School of Business and Presidential Intern serving in the Office of Academic Affairs. “He said, ‘I know you didn’t do this alone. Go call your loved one who helped you through this process and tell them Obama’s proud.’ ”

Hassan is the only student from Utah to be chosen to receive the inaugural Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service — also known as the Voyager Scholarship — funded by the Obama Foundation and Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO. Barack and Michelle Obama and Chesky announced the winners of the scholarship on Wednesday, Sept. 13. As part of the two-year scholarship program, each recipient will receive up to $50,000 in financial aid for school, a $10,000 stipend to pursue a summer work-travel experience, the opportunity to attend an in-person convening with Obama and Chesky, and a 10-year travel stipend with $2,000 every year for 10 years to facilitate ongoing travel after graduation.

“These young Voyagers believe in a fairer and more inclusive world, and they’re ready to help us address important challenges in new ways,” Barack Obama said in a news release about the scholarship. “I can’t wait to see what they accomplish through public service.”

As a First Ascent Scholar and double major in entrepreneurship and finance, Hassan maintains at least a 3.0 GPA, volunteers on campus, and gives back to the community as part of his scholarship, which has made it possible for him to attend the U. But when he heard Obama’s advice, Hassan didn’t hesitate to call the person he credits for making his education possible: his mother.

After seeing her support each of his siblings as a single mother, and use her free time to help refugees, Hassan set a goal to use his degree to teach immigrants about wealth management and the finance sector. He hopes to create a platform to teach others how to invest money successfully, and then, he plans to help his mom retire.

More information about the Voyager Scholarship is available here.