[Manila, Philippines] – In September, the Obama Foundation announced that Gabriel “Gab” Billones Jr., Founder & President of Break the Fake Movement will be part of its sixth cohort of Obama Scholars, made up of 30 emerging leaders from around the world who will participate in an immersive program at either Columbia University in the City of New York or the University of Chicago for the 2023-2024 academic year. Gab will be the first Filipino Obama Scholar at Columbia University.
Gabriel Billones Jr. is the founder of Break the Fake Movement, an alliance of over 500 young professionals across Southeast Asia who fight fake news, promote media and information literacy, and encourage responsible digital citizenship. Since 2017, Gabriel’s organization has launched events, programs, and competitions across Southeast Asia, particularly in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, to build a community of media and information-literate citizens who leverage the power of critical thinking to protect online spaces, debunk disinformation, and promote digital rights and media inclusion. Break the Fake’s programs include a media civics lab, fact-checking academy and summit, workshops with grassroots communities, and a digital literacy program that offers media toolkits, live masterclasses, webinars, boot camps, and competitions. Gabriel aims to expand his impact through the Scholars program by developing a plan to increase access to media and information literacy resources across Southeast Asia.
Gabriel holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Iligan Institute of Technology at Mindanao State University in the Philippines. He has participated in fellowships with the U.S. Department of State, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, the International Fact-Checking Network, and Deutsche Welle’s Akademie for international media development.
The Obama Scholars program, a cornerstone of the Foundation’s work to develop the next generation of leaders, provides Scholars with exposure to real-world skills, tools, and experiences that will expand the impact of their work when they return home. The Scholars will participate in academic, skills-based, and experiential learning, designed by Columbia University and the University of Chicago, in partnership with the Obama Foundation. Their experience will be further enriched by participating in Foundation-led leadership development programming that includes training, networking opportunities, and personalized support as they extend their efforts post-graduation. The Foundation-led program kicked off on September 7, with all Scholars attending an orientation in Chicago.
“The Obama Scholars program enables rising changemakers to gain insights into the work of fellow leaders, across issues and geographies, while collaborating to address complex challenges,” said Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett. “We are eager to welcome the new cohort of Scholars to the Foundation family, where they will join a network of changemakers striving for a stronger, more sustainable, and more inclusive world.”
The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University will welcome 12 Scholars from 12 countries for a nine-month residency at Columbia World Projects. Scholars will engage with the institution’s multifaceted program to deepen their knowledge and skills and build new capacities and networks that will accelerate their impact on the world. The cohort will partake in weekly seminars, personal and professional development workshops, audited coursework, and other tailored programming developed in close partnership with the Foundation.
The Obama Foundation Scholars program is designed to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders with the tools they need to make their efforts more effective and impactful across their global communities. Since its inception in 2018, the Obama Foundation Scholars program has supported 132 leaders from 59 countries, all actively working to address today’s pressing issues. To learn more about the 2023-2024 cohort, please visit obama.org/programs/scholars.