A 2020 Lynnwood High School graduate is furthering her education in political science at Gonzaga University, and with a little help from The Obama Foundation, the passions she once thought of as hobbies are now closer to becoming her lifelong career.
Mae Cramer grew up wanting to become a teacher. Although she’d always been passionate about women’s rights and social justice, it wasn’t until her freshman year of college at Gonzaga University that she realized she could study those topics, not just dream of them.
“[Those things have] always been a big part of who I am,” Cramer said. “And going into my freshman year of college, I realized that I could actually do that stuff as a career and not as a side hobby. So that’s when I decided to [study] political science.”
Now in her junior year at Gonzaga, Cramer is getting excited about what the future holds once she graduates. While she’s not completely sure what she plans to do with her degree, Cramer hopes she can work for someone in public office, and eventually plans to run for a position herself.
And to make the transition to the working world even sweeter, she was one of 100 college juniors in the country to be awarded The Obama Foundation’s Voyager Scholarship.
The scholarship was created by former President Barack Obama in partnership with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to “help shape young leaders who can bridge divides and help solve [the world’s] biggest challenges together.”
“[When I heard that I won], I was honestly really overwhelmed and kind of in disbelief,” Cramer said. “When I called my parents and told them I got the award, I told them I feel like they’re going to call me or send an email and be like, ‘Nope, sorry, wrong person.’ I definitely had a lot of that imposter syndrome for a while.”
This scholarship will help Cramer with $50,000 in financial aid for both her junior and senior years of college, fund a summer internship of her choice, provide her with the financial resources to embark on meaningful travel experiences and offer her a network of mentors and leaders to lend support.
“This scholarship will pay for the rest of my college tuition and will help me pay off the rest of my student loans, which I feel like would have been a big barrier to going after careers in the public service sector because they’re not always the most high-paying positions,” she said.
In addition to helping fund her college education, the scholarship will give Cramer $10,000 during the summer of her senior year to create her own “Summer Voyage” internship. The funds will help pay for housing, food, travel and other various living expenses while Cramer gains beneficial work experience in her field.
The internship must last a minimum of six weeks, she said, but can span the whole summer if students want. Cramer hopes to create a program where she is able to job shadow multiple people in various positions so she can gain valuable knowledge in many different areas.
“My main goal is: I want to learn how to organize people behind a cause and be the most effective leader I can be while doing as much as I can for the causes I care about,” she said.
Cramer hopes one day she can job shadow, or even work with, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“She definitely doesn’t take nonsense from anybody, which is something I really want to embody,” she said.
On top of paid tuition and a summer internship, for the first 10 years after Cramer graduates, Airbnb will give her $2,000 a year to travel, no strings attached.
“Essentially, they just want us to see more of the world and expand our horizons,” she said. “[CEO Brian Chesky said to us], ‘You can’t really build bridges in a community if you haven’t been to the other side of the bridge.’”
While most college students might think of using the funds from Airbnb to go on a much-needed vacation every year, Cramer plans to use the funds to help further her knowledge of the world and work to better herself in her career and areas she’s passionate about.
“One of my big passions is immigration and immigration reform,” she said. “So, I would want to go to various refugee camps or immigration shelters and do what I can to help out there and learn more about the issues.”
Cramer also plans to use the funds to fly to Denmark and other European countries to learn more about their advancements in gender equality and social medicine so she can work to apply those principles in the U.S.
Cramer said she would not be where she is today without the support of her friends, family and teachers from Lynnwood High School.
“All the opportunities and experiences I had there made me into the person I am and made me someone who could apply for this scholarship,” she said. “Two of my former high school history teachers actually forwarded me the [scholarship] application, encouraging me to apply.”
While she’s still unsure where her degree will take her after she graduates, Cramer hopes the knowledge she gains from this scholarship opportunity will help her shape the world into a place where everyone is able to live freely and be themselves.
— By Lauren Reichenbach