It's official: The Obamas have their first fellows. They're impressive, to say the least.

Michelle and Barack Obama have always been dedicated to public service and diversity, and their foundation's new fellowship program is indicative of their commitment to those values.

Photo by Jim Young/AFP/Getty Images.


The Obama Foundation has announced its first round of fellows — an extremely diverse group of scholars.  

The 20 civic leaders have all committed to public service in various parts of the world to challenge the status quo, inspire marginalized groups, and implement programs to empower underserved communities. The fellowship will support these leaders by providing a space for them to collaborate, exchange ideas, and inspire civic action and innovation.          

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

While the fellowship is an incredible opportunity, it’s likely not a surprise to those who have followed the Obamas' work. As a former president and community organizer, Barack has shown his dedication to public service through his volunteer work and commitment to empowering youth to use their skills and talents to make the world a better place. Michelle has consistently used her platform to support girls' education and uplift people of color to reach for their highest aspirations while also helping others.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Over 20,000 people from 191 countries applied for the fellowship. They hail from places like Southeast Asia, Chicago, and Haiti, and their projects are simply remarkable.  

All 20 of the selected fellows are amazing people, and here's a sample of who they are and the incredible work they're doing:

1. Melissa Malzkuhn of Washington, D.C., is working to design digital tools that create equal access to expression, language, and literacy.  

2. Moussa Kondo of Bamako, Mali, is helping fight corruption in Mali by amplifying and empowering honest civil servants.  

3. Preethi Herman of Delhi, India, is showing a new generation of female leaders how to engage their communities in addressing some of India’s most pressing problems.  

4. Sasha Fisher of New York City and Rwanda utilizes the power of community organizing and village grants to foster democratic inclusion, capacity, and growth in rural Africa.  

5. Koketso Moeti of Johannesburg, South Africa, is building a digital platform to give black South African women the tools and knowledge they need to address the important issues affecting their lives.  

And that’s just a quarter of the amazing people selected.

All of the fellows are incredibly skilled, intelligent, and compassionate. Regardless of their political affiliation, their core values of creating spaces and opportunities for all people around the world are indicative of the kind of work that will move things forward. The Obama Foundation's support of this work is a welcome example of how political power and influence — when used responsibly — can positively affect our nation and the world at large.    

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.