A ‘Drive for Social Impact’: Student Aims to Help Others Access Health Care Support Through Obama Foundation Scholarship
Ryan Manthy (CS 3rd year) says he believes that technology has the great potential to help people gain access to health care resources. He now has an opportunity to explore that potential further as a Voyager Scholarship recipient.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting other people who share in that drive for social impact,” Manthy says. “There’s no shortage of that here on Illinois Tech’s campus, but there’s a broad cohort of student leaders selected who have liberal arts backgrounds, health care backgrounds, and technology backgrounds. Hearing ideas from those people is really exciting.”
Manthy is one of 100 inaugural Voyager Scholarship recipients, out of 1,800 applicants. The scholarship was created by former United States President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to support young leaders who can bridge divides and help solve the world’s biggest challenges. Distributed by the Obama Foundation, the scholarship grants up to $50,000 toward tuition costs. It also grants a $10,000 stipend, free Airbnb housing, and help finding an internship or mentorship for a summer work-travel experience of the recipient’s design. Voyager scholars also will receive up to $2,000 in Airbnb credits annually for 10 years after graduation.
The goal of the scholarship is to allow students to pursue a career in public service, as well as gain exposure to new communities. When Manthy heard about the opportunity, he says it appeals to his own career ambitions.
“I’ve always had a passion for social impact innovation, and I aspire to work in this field in the future,” Manthy says. “At the time I applied, I was working on a startup concept in the social impact space and figured this would be a cool way to catalyze my efforts.”
Manthy’s startup explored how technology can help people access health care services. He entered the Grainger Computing Innovation Prize competition last spring with a tech tool called Receptify with the goal of supporting survivors of sexual violence throughout their recovery journeys. Manthy also advanced the project through the Startup Accelerator at Illinois Tech’s Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship and the SoReMo research fellowship. The research project included interviews with more than 100 clinicians, Title IX officers, and advocacy groups.
“We realized there wasn’t a market for this specific tool, but there is a definite need for more tools that support survivors,” Manthy says. “I realized the value of building technology with purpose.”
Manthy also saw first-hand how technology can help people access government services as an intern with his hometown state representative. He saw how the state representative utilized technological tools to connect his constituents to health care assets, food benefits, housing assistance, and other services.
“There was a lot of community outreach, and I realized that if I could apply my passion for social service with technology, I could deliver a lot of impact,” he says.
Although Manthy says he has no specific travel plans for the upcoming summer, he would like to travel abroad to study how health care models utilize tech tools in other countries, and bring some of those ideas back to help local people access the health care services that they need.
“I haven’t had many chances to travel outside internationally as a medium of experiencing other cultures, so I’m looking forward to that,” he says. “It will also be interesting to discover other social service models and learn how to better innovate solutions through my experiences.”
Photo: Ryan Manthy (CS 3rd year)