Washington Leadership Program announces latest crop of interns of Indian-American and South Asian origin


The Washington Leadership Program which places South Asian youth in various government and elected offices for Summer internships, announced its latest Class of 2020 on June 17. Consisting of 9 winners, the youth hail from different states around the country., and a majority are women.

They include:

Vignesh Iyer (All Photos Courtesy of WLP)

Vignesh Iyer is a graduating junior at the University of California, Santa Cruz studying Political Science and Economics. He came to the US from India in 2014. Since then, he has been engaged in politics and public service. In his two years on the UC Student Association’s Board of Directors, he worked with the CA State Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom on issues of financial aid, student basic needs, and racial justice. Off campus, he worked on local campaigns in the Bay Area, and on housing and homelessness policy as a legislative intern for San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
He will be interning with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois this summer

Ananya Kachru

Ananya Kachru recently led the 2020 South Asian Youth Initiative— where students engaged in critical discussions on issues ranging from mental health to intersectionality to gender violence. She leads the Yale International Relations Leadership Institute and is involved with the Yale International Relations Association Board of Directors. She is the incoming co-President of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Yale and the Yale South Asian Society. She is involved with South Asian Americans in Public Service and is a Campus Tour Guide. During the pandemic, Kachru has been working with teammates to coordinate a campus-wide fundraiser, raising more than $28,000 to support community partners in New Haven, CT. She will be interning with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, this summer

Mihiri Kotikawatta

Mihiri Kotikawatta is a senior at the University of California San Diego where she is studying Political Science with a concentration in International Relations and Global Health. She was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka but grew up in Chula Vista, California. On campus, she works at the UCSD Women’s Center as their community liaison and is also co-vice chair of her university’s South Asian student association. Her professional interests include education policy, health policy and foreign policy. She will be interning with Congressman Dr. Ami Bera, D-California, this summer

Rucha Modi

Rucha Modi, a senior at University of California Los Angeles, is majoring in Global Studies and minoring in Public Affairs. She was born and raised in Southern California to parents who immigrated from Gujarat. On campus, she has served as the Lobbying Director for UCLA’s undergraduate student government and works for UCLA’s Office of Undergraduate Admission. Off campus, she is working on a documentary about the affordability and accessibility of California’s public higher education system, and a think tank research project regarding LGBTQ nondiscrimination and media rhetoric. She will be interning with United States Agency For International Development, USAID, this summer

Shreya Pabbaraju

Shreya Pabbaraju is a fourth year student at Emory College of Arts and Sciences, double majoring in Political Science and English and Creative Writing. Previously, she was an intern at the Carter Center’s Human Rights division, and  has also worked for the organization’s outreach arm with Emory, the Institute for Developing Nations. She currently serves as Lead Coder and Research Assistant for a project on militia violence in Northern Ireland, and is pursuing an honors thesis on violence against women in India. She will also be interning with USAID this summer

Vishwa Padigepati, a sophomore at Yale University where she is majoring in Cognitive Science and Political Science, lived in India and France, before moving to California when she was eight. Padigepati’s interests are in genocide prevention and international development and she volunteers her time to serve as a youth leader for STAND and Plan International USA. On campus, she is on the board of Yale Review of International Studies and Managing Editor for The Yale Undergraduate Human Rights Journal. She hopes to pursue developmental infrastructure work and human rights law in her future. She will be interning with the Department of Commerce – International Trade Administration

Hillary Shah

Hillary Shah is a senior at the University of North Texas where she studies Political Science and Economics, with a certification in Legal Studies. Shah’s goal is to reinvigorate the ‘American Dream’ and help break down political, economic, and social structures that prohibit marginalized communities from reaching their full potential – whether that be through voter rights and mobilization work for historically disenfranchised groups, gun violence prevention, or education and resource distribution to first-generation and women of color. In the future, Hillary hopes to attend law school and serve her community as a public advocacy lawyer and public servant. She will be interning with the Department of Commerce – Civil Rights Division

Krithika Shamanna

Krithika Shamanna is a sophomore at Rice University where she is majoring in Political Science and the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, while pursuing a certificate in Civic Leadership. On campus, she is involved with the debate team, the school yearbook, and a chapter of non-profit organization Deeds Not Words. She is interested in studying the intersection of law, women’s rights, and public policy. She hopes to be a lawyer and work to protect the rights of women and other marginalized communities. She will be interning at the Department of Commerce this summer

Tarun Ramesh

Tarun Ramesh is an Economics and Genetics major at the University of Georgia, interested in substance use disorder prevention and the disparate impacts of addiction epidemics on vulnerable populations. He seeks to bridge the gap between policy research and community engagement, by ensuring that discussions are inclusive and community-centric. From research on adolescent smoking prevalence in immigrants to the influence of state laws on opioid overdoses, Ramesh has investigated the socioeconomic determinants of health, particularly in the context of addiction. He hopes to pursue a joint Masters in Health Economics and Medical Degree after he graduates. He will be interning at Department of Health and Human Services – Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this summer



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