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Kaylee Ries announced as recipient of Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholarship

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Kaylee Ries, selected for the Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholarship for Public Service, where she will receive a 10-year travel stipend after graduation.

Makenna Flores | Reporter

Kaylee Ries, a junior psychology student at BGSU, is one of 100 people in the country to receive the Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholarship for Public Service. 

The Obamas, alongside Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, announced the Voyager Scholarship in May 2022, which is for juniors who are pursuing a career in public service. It includes $25,000 a year in financial aid, a $10,000 stipend, free Airbnb housing to pursue a summer-work travel experience, $2,000 in travel credit for 10 years from Airbnb and the opportunity to meet former President Obama and Chesky at a fall convening. 

Ries said when she found out she received the scholarship, she instantly burst into tears. 

“It’s been crazy. It’s been the most worthy thing I’ve cried about in a long time,” she said. 

Additionally, Ries said being chosen out of 2,000 people has been a confidence booster. 

Ries works as an advocate with the Cocoon, a sexual and domestic violence shelter in Bowling Green, Ohio. She also volunteers for the nationwide Crisis Text Line as a crisis counselor and campus advocate, as well as a peer ambassador at BGSU. 

Her work has allowed her to gain valuable experience needed for her degree,, as well as help others.

She wasn’t always sure of her major. Growing up impoverished, she struggled to pick a major because of the possibility of fiscal instability with a psychology degree. However, she realized helping people is more important than that extra stability, especially for those in a situation familiar to her.

Ries said, from the ages of three to 18, she was raised in a household that experienced domestic violence. 

“It really shaped who I was, because I would go to school and act like a completely different person. I tended to take school as the place where I could take control and become the person I wanted to be. People thought I was fine when I really wasn’t, so you never know what someone is going through,” she said. 

Ries doesn’t want anyone to be alone the way she was during that period of her life. She said she strives to be the person she needed when she was growing up. 

Assistant teaching professor in the Human Development and Family Studies program at BGSU, Paul Standinger, believes Ries is achieving that goal. 

“Individuals who have a story either let it define them or rise above it. Kaylee has done a great job at rising above that story and knowing that it’s a part of her, but it doesn’t define her,” he said. 

Standinger has had Ries in two classes for her Human Development and Family Studies minor and has become a trusted mentor for her. 

“I think as a student, I’m very impressed by her passion, her ability to be down to earth and her genuineness. She’s very good at communicating as well,” he said. 

Ries has the ability to communicate what she believes in and Standinger said that he thinks that trait is valuable and necessary for a future professional in her field, as she plans to work toward a doctorate degree in clinical psychology. 

“She is a survivor moving towards thriver and I think it is to be commended,” Standinger said.

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