Since childhood, Jasmin Valdivieso Sanches ’26 felt drawn to public service and immigration reform.
“I grew up wanting to be a judge or a lawyer for immigration reform,” she said. “But I realized that my ambition doesn’t stop with trying to help people based on the current laws and policies. I want to be at the table, so I can try to fix things from the inside out.”
Now a major academic award places Valdivieso Sanches closer to her goals.
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Valdivieso Sanches has been awarded an Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service by the Obama Foundation, one of 100 college students from 33 states and territories and 75 colleges and universities to earn the honor.
Valdivieso Sanches is the second URI student to be named a Voyager Scholar in the program’s first two years. Launched in 2022 by former President Barack and Michelle Obama and Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, the scholarship supports college students entering their junior year of college who are interested in careers in public service.
The program provides up to $25,000 per year in financial aid for the students’ junior and senior years and a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing to create a travel-work experience the summer before their senior year. Recipients also take part in an annual fall summit and have access to mentors and leaders.
At URI, Valdivieso Sanches has carried a 3.7 grade-point average while working two part-time jobs on campus and serving in the Rhode Island National Guard (1st Battalion, Bravo Battery, 103rd Field Artillery Regiment) to help pay for school.
“When I received the email that I was selected for the scholarship, it took me a while to grasp that I had won such a huge opportunity,” said Valdivieso Sanches, a double major in political science and gender and women’s studies at URI. “I’m excited for this. It will definitely help lessen the financial stress that is college and help me create a pool of experience to extract from as I continue to explore possible immigration reform.”