Connor Barrett ’24 was recently named one of the 100 inaugural recipients of the Obama Foundation’s Voyager Scholarship, which supports young leaders interested in an increasingly globalized world to help bridge divides and find solutions to international challenges.
The scholarship, geared specifically to students interested in a career in public service, provides meaningful financial aid along with opportunities for transformational travel. It supports students interested in working to address social issues in consultation with community members affected by those issues.
Building off of his efforts as a Lang Opportunity Scholar, Barrett intends to use the award to address domestic and sexual violence and abuse in his hometown of Reading, Pa.
"Being a Voyager Scholar is an extraordinary opportunity that I am deeply humbled to receive,” says Barrett, an economics major, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, and Student Government Organization president.
“I would be remiss not to acknowledge the incredibly strong people in my life, mainly my mother, who has supported and inspired me to pursue what I am passionate about,” Barrett adds. “This honor is one for all of the people who support me and those who are unable to support themselves; I believe that my deep gratitude will come from the future violence I will help prevent and the incredible voices I am able to uplift."
In a press release for his Lang Opportunity Scholarship, Barrett cited domestic violence as an invisible and stigmatized issue, for which many internalize the violence they experience and rarely seek help.
“Many survivors face myriad complications,” he said, “whether they are at risk for further harm, or blame themselves for the harm they faced.”
Voyager Scholars receive financial assistance for their junior and senior years of college, along with support to design a summer voyage in between those two years. That support will allow students to pursue internships or mentorship opportunities anywhere in the world that will broaden their horizons and prepare them for careers in public service.
“I intend to use [the travel award] to learn about different models of healing globally and domestically, and will apply these frameworks to models of prevention back home,” says Barrett. “My community is incredibly important to me, whether that be my hometown, fellow survivors, or anyone surviving violence. I feel deeply committed to helping in the healing process for survivors and working toward prevention efforts, starting with Reading, Pa.”
The Voyager Scholarship was established by former President Barack Obama, former First Lady Michelle Obama, and Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky. Scholars also receive access to a broad network of mentors and leaders who can support their academic and professional goals, as well as an invitation to an annual summit to meet with Obama, Chesky, and other guest speakers to discuss approaches to service and leadership.
The scholarship reflects the core mission of Barack Obama’s foundation to “inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world.” The inaugural class of 100 Voyager Scholars was selected from an applicant pool of 1,800 students from across the U.S.