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DePaul junior using education to plan future of service

Obama Foundation selected Brandan Carroll for the Voyager Scholarship for Public Service

Brandan Carroll
In November, Carroll attended the Voyager summit held at the 2023 Obama Foundation Democracy Forum in Chicago. There he met with his fellow Voyager scholars while having the opportunity to listen to leaders and changemakers from across the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Brandan Carroll)
DePaul junior Brandan Carroll sees education as his ticket to give back to his community of Englewood, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, and other communities across the U.S. During his time at DePaul, he’s studied social justice issues, including food deserts. 

“I believe that the answer for those problems lies in community engagement, in economic growth and in education,” Carroll says. “I believe education is fundamental to my ability to support minority communities across the U.S. in creating job opportunities and helping build the next generation of changemakers,” Carroll adds.

Carroll is one of 100 college juniors, including fellow DePaul student Adrianna Pinzariu, recently awarded a Voyager Scholarship from the Obama Foundation and Brian Chesky, cofounder and CEO of Airbnb.

The scholarship supports students who plan to pursue a career in public service with up to $50,000 in financial aid, a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing to pursue a summer work-travel experience. Scholars also receive a $2,000 Airbnb travel credit every year for 10 years to broaden their horizons and forge new connections throughout their public service careers. The award supports young leaders dedicated to addressing global challenges and driving positive change in their communities and around the world.

Carroll hopes to use the stipend and Airbnb funding to travel around the world, with his sights set on South Africa, Europe and Peru, and see how other communities engage citizens to solve some of society’s biggest problems.

Laying the groundwork for a career in public service

While attending high school at Urban Prep Academy Charter High School — where he later became valedictorian — Carroll joined After School Matters’ Peacemaker Program. There he connected with a group of classmates to perform community service, including donating clothes and cleaning their neighborhoods by picking up trash. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the group met online to discuss topics like gun violence.

“The Peacemakers Program helped motivate me and other young Black men to better ourselves while teaching us the importance of togetherness, friendship, community and empathy for others,” Carroll says.

DePaul has advanced Carroll’s journey while allowing him to be close to home and to his mother and sister. “DePaul has provided me an excellent education. I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve learned so much about what I’m studying. At the same time, I’ve been able to gain opportunities like the Voyager Scholarship. I just feel blessed,” Carroll says.

While taking a public speaking course as part of his communication and media degree in the College of Communication, Carroll prepared for a career in public service by learning to use his voice for good.

“Public speaking taught me to be myself, trust in my own work and have confidence in my opinions,” Carroll says. “Because many times in America, African-American men, especially ones from neighborhoods like Englewood, are taught that we can’t be articulate and that we can’t voice our own opinions. I want to change that narrative.”

For adjunct faculty member Anne Scarlett, Carroll’s participation in her public speaking course stood out for elevating the discourse in the classroom.

“I could always count on him to ask thoughtful and unique questions, especially during our Q&A exercises,” Scarlett says. “Brandan would delight and surprise us by asking something that pushed beyond the ‘basics’ but remained highly relevant and on topic. It was endearing to see how all of us would sometimes look at him, to see what question he was going to toss out to the speaker,” Scarlett says.

In November, Carroll attended the Voyager summit held at the 2023 Obama Foundation Democracy Forum in Chicago. There he met with his fellow Voyager scholars while having the opportunity to listen to leaders and change makers from across the U.S.

“It was one of the best, if not the greatest, experience in my entire life,” Carroll says. “The knowledge shared, creativity shown and the individualism, but togetherness, was inspiring. I left those events with a full heart of gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity, not only because of how distinguished the Voyager scholarship is, but because I’m a first-generation college student who was raised by a single mother in the Englewood community."​

“The statistics were literally stacked against me, but I hope to continue my journey of self-improvement while helping to create community engagement in communities across the United States. Simply creating a better world is my motivation.”

Russell Dorn is a manager of news and integrated content in University Communications.