Sep. 30—Kegan Rascoe, a junior at Willamette University, has long been interested in pursuing a career in public service, with a particular curiosity in rural health care.
So when he received word of a new scholarship program, administered by former President Barack Obama's foundation, that sought to assist students passionate about public service, Rascoe figured he would give it a shot.
"I decided to go for it, didn't think I'd make it at all," the Astoria High School graduate recalled.
But several months later, he was shocked to receive an email confirming he was one of a hundred students selected to the inaugural cohort of Voyager Scholarship recipients. He was the only recipient from Oregon.
The scholarship program is a collaboration between Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama and Brian Chesky, a co-founder and the CEO of Airbnb. Recipients received congratulations over Zoom from the former president and Chesky, and will have a chance to meet with them in New York in November.
The scholarship will include up to $50,000 — $25,000 per year — in financial aid. A $10,000 stipend will help fund a summer work-travel trip to gain exposure to new communities and experience in a chosen field.
Students will also receive free Airbnb housing for the trip and $2,000 in travel credit each year for 10 years, with a purpose of allowing students to broaden their horizons and gain connections throughout careers in public service.
At Willamette University, Rascoe is double-majoring in PPLE — politics, policy, law and ethics — and music.
"It unlocks a lot of doors obviously ... For me, it means I am able to focus more on public service while I'm in college, as well as, if I want to, I can run straight into a career in public service right after college," he said. "It's a great opportunity for me to get engaged and kind of kick-start a new career in a way that I truly never expected."
Rascoe is still formulating what his trip abroad will look like, but said he wants to go to a country with a single-payer health care system and visit rural coastal communities similar to Astoria. He has considered traveling to the Nordic countries.
"I was thinking it would be really cool if I ended up living in a town (with Nordic heritage) almost all my life and then going off to those countries," he said.
Ultimately, Rascoe said he would like to pursue a master's degree in public policy and do some policy analysis at the state or federal level. Another possibility is to work for an elected official, which was one of the reasons he chose to go to college across the street from the Oregon State Capitol in Salem.
"It looks pretty fruitful if I continue to go down that path, especially with the scholarship," he said.
During his time in Astoria, Rascoe was involved with the community through volunteering, serving on boards and being in the Boy Scouts.
Lynn Jackson, the principal at Astoria High School, said he's known Rascoe since he was young and was not surprised by his accomplishment.
"He always presented himself with a level of maturity and thought that was not common amongst his peers, especially in the lens of public policy," Jackson said.
Rascoe, who grew up on the North Coast and graduated from Astoria High School in 2020, has maintained a strong connection with the community. He expressed gratitude for the many people and groups along the way who helped him go to college and pursue his career interests, including local organizations that provided scholarship opportunities like Astoria High School Scholarships Inc. and Wauna Federal Credit Union.
"What really excites me is that I'll be able to use this scholarship to learn about how rural communities care for one another, and my hope is that I'll learn a lot with which to bring back to Astoria and Oregon writ large to give back," he said. "That is kind of my goal for right now and the future.
"I am always looking for ways to connect home back to my future."