The Washington Leadership program, in its July news letter, announced the 2019 class of six “incredibly talented and brilliant young South Asian women who are ready to create positive change for their communities.”
This year’s WLP scholars include Aparna Iyer, Madhumita Krishnan, Natasha Menon, Rupa Palanki, Aziz Sandhu and Fatima Shahbaz.
The WLP is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building the next generation of leadership from within the South Asian American community through innovative programs. It was found in August 2008 in memory of erstwhile India Abroad publisher and philanthropist Gopal Raju, who sponsored a program that placed over 170 students in Congressional internships over 15 years. The organization was founded by alumni of Raju's program who seek to continue his legacy and continue this vital program for the community.
Iyer, who is interning with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), is a rising sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley studying political science and human rights. According to the WLP news letter, Iyer moved to the U.S. from India in 2014, and got involved in campaign work for her local congressman as well as with volunteer opportunities with human rights charities in the Bay Area. On campus, she is involved with the pre-law community, an Indian fusion dance team, and a nonpartisan discourse-based organization called the Berkeley Forum. She is interested in education policy and international law and aims to find a career that will merge the two.
Krishnan is a rising junior at the University of California, Berkeley, and plans on double majoring in political science and history, with a focus on Eastern Europe and the history of law. WLP says Krishnan is “passionate about working to strengthen democracy at home and abroad through working on voter rights and voter mobilization, immigration law reform, and strengthening accountability in democratic institutions”. Krishnan, who is interning with the Department of Commerce, hopes to attend graduate school in the future and work with human rights organizations to help build sound judicial institutions in developing countries.
Menon, a Department of Homeland Security intern, is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying philosophy, politics, and economics with a minor in legal studies and history. She is interested in addressing policy issues at the intersection of immigration and education and hopes to pursue this goal as an aspiring lawyer and public servant.
Palanki, a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, is placed at the Department of Health and Human Services. At UPenn, Palanki is a Ben Franklin Scholar and Wharton Public Policy Scholar studying economics and health policy. She is passionate about promoting accessibility to healthcare for marginalized populations and is interested in working at the intersection of fiscal policy, medicine, and law.
Also interning with the Department of Health and Human Services is Sandhu, a recent graduate from the University of Connecticut where she majored in global health. She is passionate about strengthening health systems and public service, while focusing on vulnerable populations. She hopes to work at the intersection between equitable governance, public health, and policymaking to enhance coordination and delivery of care in humanitarian settings and complex emergencies, and plans to pursue a career in public service as a global health advocate and leader. She will be pursuing a Master's in Science in Public Health at Johns Hopkins in the fall.
Shahbaz, an intern with Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) is a rising junior at Harvard College studying government and South Asian Studies. She was born in Karachi, Pakistan, but grew up in McLean, Virginia. On campus, she works as a Diversity Peer Educator, served as the academic-political chair of the Harvard South Asian Association, teaches a weekly civics class to fifth graders in Boston, and is on Secretariat for Harvard Model United Nations 2020.