Kegan Rascoe, a double major in PPLE and Music, is a member of the inaugural cohort (2022) of Voyager Scholarship winners. The application required Kegan to recount an experience when he was a positive change-maker in his community.
This is his story: “In 2018, a protracted government shutdown left federal workers unable to purchase necessities like food and personal hygiene products for themselves and their families. As a Coast Guard city, my hometown of Astoria, Oregon was disproportionately affected. In response, my Boy Scout Troop, which I led as Senior Patrol Leader at the time, partnered with several local non-profits to organize a food bank. Within a week, we provided resources to 503 families and over 1,300 individuals. Our efforts earned recognition in the United States Congressional Record. This experience not only showed me the power of strong community organizing, but also emphasized the need for people-centered leadership. In many ways, the shutdown was caused by leaders who lost sight of the people who would be affected by their actions. That weekend, I realized that public servants ought to place people at the center of their advocacy, because the risks of not doing so are immense.” Kegan brought his concern for community service with him to Willamette and “I made a commitment to myself that I would try to center those values in everything I did. This award allows me to keep that commitment and expand on it in ways that I never anticipated.”
The Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service Scholarship provides each winner with up to $50,000 in financial aid for their junior and senior years of college, thus enabling students like Kegan to focus on a life goal of public service without having to worry about the burden of student debt.
In addition to financial aid, the program builds connections among the cohort and with leading changemakers. Both during and for ten years after college, the award supports travel designed to expand the awardee’s knowledge of their area of service and policy concern. Coming from a family that was drastically affected by the pandemic and by other major health issues, Kegan is passionate about health policy. Kegan intends to use the scholarship to explore the effects of national health systems on inequities in healthcare. The travel award connected with the award will allow Kegan “to engage with communities across the globe to learn more about healthcare policy and the way such policy affects rural communities.” Kegan wants to examine the healthcare system of a country such as the U.K. or Sweden during his first funded Summer Voyage, exploring how single-payer systems affect the health and behavior of patients from rural areas.
A true student of the liberal arts, Kegan has played diverse roles at Willamette and at home in Astoria. He is a member of the Jazz Collective. Last year he was an RA in the Baxter complex. This year he is a Colloquium Associate for Professor Ellis’s “Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.” He has served on the Academic Programs committee and Academic Council. In Astoria he helped raise funds for the renovation of buildings in the Astoria School District, and now serves as a member of the Astoria Oregon Public Library Foundation board, member of the board for a non-profit supporting a performing arts theatre in Astoria, and secretary of the Astoria Maritime Memorial board. He is clearly a well-rounded public servant.
While there are one hundred students from across the nation in the inaugural cohort, Willamette is the only Oregon college with a 2022 Voyager Scholar. Kegan offered thanks to “My family, Morgan Davis, Professor Clark, and everyone else who contributed to my application. Also, I’d like to thank the Obama Foundation and Brian Chesky for providing such a wonderful opportunity. It wouldn’t have been possible without them.” Kegan hopes to use this scholarship to show young people in rural communities around Oregon that their perspectives are valuable too. People from rural places bring unique skills and habits to the table in overcoming challenges. This scholarship gives me the opportunity to elevate their voices and I hope to do just that.”
Kegan Rascoe embodies the Willamette motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.” The opportunities afforded by the Voyager Scholarship will deepen his commitment and enable him to pursue his public service vision.