SCHENECTADY – When Eastwood Yeboah first committed to Union College, he was confident in his chosen major of political science. A summer class later, not so much. Still, public service never left his sights.
He began the year undecided. After taking intro to psychology in the fall, the decision was made for him.
“Just being able to see the disparities and adversities I went through, as well as hearing other people’s stories, has been incredibly impactful,” Yeboah, a junior, said.
After a triumphant two years at Union, he was named a Voyager Scholar. The Voyager Scholarship was founded by Barack and Michelle Obama, alongside AirBnB founder and CEO Brian Chesky. The scholarship provided $50,000 towards tuition, as well as support in travel opportunities. Voyagers are given a $10,000 stipend to pursue work and travel in a location of their choosing during the summer between their junior and senior years, as well as free AirBnB housing while they’re there.
Yeboah hasn’t formally chosen his location yet, but has been eyeing the Netherlands after learning about how mental health care is addressed in the nation.
The voyage won’t be Yeboah’s first venture abroad. He’s held travel in high regard his whole life, and got to actualize it when he visited Ghana, a graduation gift from his mother. He’s since visited South Africa and is currently doing a semester abroad in Greece.
It was humbling to see people who looked like me living such different lifestyles,” he said.
The scholar stays busy regardless of where he is. His resume is peppered with achievements in his hometown of Germantown, Maryland as well Schenectady.
“It’s a little odd,” he said, speaking on his involvement at Union while studying in Greece. “I’m still in all the GroupMe’s and email chains. It’s a lot of just making sure i’m still taking care of my responsibilities while being”
Among his endeavors, The Boys & Girls Club reigns supreme. He’s been on both sides of the operation, having attended their after-school programs as a child and worked his way up to counselor in training as a teenager. In college, he got involved again and worked at the Schenectady location throughout the school year.
“It’s a part of my life I’ll never forget,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m in Maryland or New York, they’re club kids.”
Yeboah is also a recipient of the Seward fellowship, a program at Union that allows exemplary students to design their own minor. He hopped on the opportunity to further delve into his public service mission and designed a minor called “Accessibility for mental health care in marginalized identities.”
With a double major in Africana studies, he incorporated classes tackling racial justice from all angles. He’s taken courses such as Visual Culture, Race and Gender and Sociology of Black Women’s Culture.
His interest in psychology originally led him to consider being a therapist with a private practice. As he made his way through his first collegiate years, his focus shifted to law school, a decision solidified after he worked at New Choice Recovery Center.
“It’s really important to me that I have access to help as many people as possible,” Yeboah said.
In his free time, Yeboah can be found curating his vinyl collection, or hanging out with cats. He fostered a feline this past summer, and since arriving in Greece, he’s been volunteering with Nine Lives Greece, an organization that assists Athens’ iconic stray cats.
The Voyager Scholarship is fairly new, Yeboah is a part of the second cohort. He heard about the program through Lynn Evans, director of fellowships and doctoral pathways.
“I thought Eastwood would be a good candidate because he truly cares about people and wants to change the world for the better,” Evans said. “Eastwood is wonderful to work with, he has a very developed ability to listen to people and make them feel heard. Especially for someone still so young.”
Yeboah met Evans soon after stepping foot on campus. He made visiting the scholarship office a priority and encouraged his fellow students to utilize the resource.
“You’re going to get a lot of no’s,” he said. “But one yes is life changing.”