Terra Gallo ’24, a double major in economics and environmental policy at Colby, is one of 100 recipients of the inaugural Voyager Scholarship, the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service.
The award, which was established last spring by the Obamas and Airbnb cofounder Brian Chesky, gives juniors who want to work in public service up to $50,000 in financial aid and a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing to pursue a summer work-travel experience between their junior and senior years. It also will give them a $2,000 travel stipend every year for 10 years.
“I’m really thankful for the opportunity and thankful to the Obama Foundation and to all the professors here,” said Gallo, who lives in Cumberland, Maine. “It’s going to be hugely impactful for my family.”
She and the other recipients, who come from 35 states and territories and 70 colleges and universities, are invited to a summit this fall with former president Obama and Chesky to talk about the role of empathy and understanding in leadership.
Gallo serves as a mentor with Colby Cares About Kids, a program that serves students in grades K-8 in the greater Waterville area. Over the summer, she worked as an intern with Maine Conservation Voters, helping the organization with outreach and communication. She also is proud of her work last year on an independent civic engagement project to share stories around menstruation.
The project emerged from a Jan Plan course called Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries, during which she learned that menstruation can pose issues both in developing countries and in the United States. She and classmate Chloe Shader ’24 decided to address issues of stigma around menstruation and increase access to menstrual education in local schools.
Last spring, Gallo and Shader participated in Colby’s O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership program and produced an informational video, A Collection of Period Stories. This fall, they sent it to area guidance counselors and have been getting positive feedback.
At this point, Gallo has broad goals for the Voyager Scholarship, including focusing on environmental issues and building communities that are resilient to climate change. She is passionate about food insecurity and food justice, and she plans to work collaboratively to find solutions. In her work-travel experience next summer, she is considering going to Europe to learn more about sustainable development happening there.
She’s looking forward to meeting other members of the Voyager cohort and to participating in the upcoming summit, the travel, and the one-on-one mentoring that also is a part of the scholarship.
“I’m just feeling very grateful and really excited about the opportunity,” she said.
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