NEW YORK – The co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, has donated $100 million to the Obama Foundation to fund scholarships for students pursuing careers in public service and includes multiple stipends for travel.
The Voyager Scholarship will grant $50,000 to rising juniors to cover tuition costs over two years as well as a $10,000 grant and Airbnb credit to fund a summer experience designed by the student. Scholarship winners will also get an Airbnb credit worth $2,000 a year for 10 years after their graduation, which is in addition to Chesky's donation a foundation spokesperson said.
"You're going to find young people from every corner of this country who are going to be future change makers. There are leaders everywhere. We just have to find them," former President Barack Obama said in a video announcement Monday. He and Chesky will meet with scholarship recipients at an annual conference to talk about service and leadership.
Travel engenders curiosity and cooperation, Chesky said, acknowledging that many students face financial burdens that discourage them from entering professions or fields oriented toward service.
“There are young people across the country who have a passion for public service, but can’t pursue it because of their student loan debt,” Chesky said. "We want to help reduce that burden.”
Chesky's donation is the largest the Obama Foundation has received, tied with a $100 million donation from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in November.
Some 43 million Americans carry student loans worth $1.6 trillion, according to federal figures. President Joe Biden promised to cancel $10,000 in federal student debt per person while campaigning but has not yet done so. He said in April that he is continuing to study what action to take on student loans.
The Voyager Scholarship has opened applications via the website Scholarship America for the first 100 students it will fund. Applicants must be entering their junior year of college at a four-year U.S. university and must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or have a deferred action status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. The deadline to apply is June 14. Scholarship America is managing the application process, but the Obama Foundation will select recipients, a spokesperson for the foundation said.
Students must demonstrate a commitment to public service, which the program's website defines broadly as including “careers in government, nonprofits or the private sector," including occupations ranging “from community organizing to social work and from entrepreneurship to the arts.”
Chesky is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and has spoken about his unexpected path to becoming an entrepreneur. Airbnb went public in December 2020 with a valuation of over $100 billion, a major comeback after its business was badly impacted by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chesky has signed a pledge to give the majority of his wealth away during his lifetime.
The Obama Foundation has recently funded community organizations working to close opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color as well as to fund girls' education, according to its 2020 tax filings.
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