DALLAS — Kayla Abramowitz applied on a whim.
She didn’t think she’d done enough to be considered for one of 100 scholarships former President Barack Obama was offering to young people he thinks will change the world.
She didn’t think she’d get a second look.
Even though she started a nonprofit when she was 11.
Even though that nonprofit has now donated more than 40,000 educational and entertaining toys to 450 children’s hospitals and medical facilities in 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Quebec and South Africa.
Even though she did it all herself while battling painful diseases.
This week, Abramowitz, now a 20-year-old advertising major and member of the Longhorn band at the University of Texas at Austin, admitted she’s glad she applied.
She is one of just 100 students from across the country chosen to receive a Voyager scholarship from Obama and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.
The Voyager scholarship provides $25,000 in scholarship money for a student’s junior and senior year. It also includes a $10,000 travel stipend and free Airbnb housing anywhere in the world for the summer before the recipient’s senior year. A 10-year, $2,000 travel stipend follows that.
Abramowitz has battled juvenile arthritis, Crohn’s disease and rare eosinophilic diseases.
She told WFAA it’s been a painful journey and sometimes she has to be in a wheelchair.
That’s why she launched her nonprofit, Kayla Cares 4 Kids.
“I want to provide what I call positive distractions to other children and alleviate the fear and pain from a hospital stay,” she said.
She has big plans she hopes come to fruition thanks to her Voyager scholarship opportunity.
“I want to create a TV show the likes of Sesame Street that’s targeted to younger children to create awareness and understanding for children with disabilities,” she said. “We’re kind of all the same and I feel representation in the media is the biggest part of understanding that at a young age.”
The Abramowitz family recently moved to Little Elm from Florida.
Her mother, Andrea, said the scholarship is life changing for their family, but also for the North Texas community.
“Kayla has such big goals and she always meets them,” she said.
They’ve already spent time at the local Ronald McDonald House.
Kayla was on a Zoom call with the former president on Tuesday which she called “touching.”
“He was basically telling us that what we were doing was good for the world and that we’re serving the public sector. His specific quote for parents and kids was, you done good, and I really liked that,” she said.