By Pallavi Rudraraju, VA Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Pallavi Rudraraju
Hello, everyone! This is Pallavi, the new VA Middle School Program Coordinator. You might remember me from a couple years back, when I interned for Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) as the DC Elementary School Intern for Summer 2015.
It feels so wonderful to be back! In the time since my internship with AALEAD, I have worked at William & Mary Admissions, graduated from college, and gained many new experiences and memories that I hold dear to me. I feel I have grown so much in the past couple years, and I am excited to bring all that I have learned with me into the VA Middle School programs.
I like to tell people that AALEAD is “where it all began” for me. This is where I was first able to combine my passion for Asian Pacific American (APA) activism with my love for youth work. It’s as if I’ve been spending the past two years trying to find my way back to AALEAD, and now that I have, it feels like home.
To tell you a little more about myself, I am a native of Northern Virginia, and I just graduated from the College of William & Mary with a Bachelor of Arts in Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies and World Performing Arts and Cultures. From a young age, I was involved in my culture through Bharatanatyam dance and Carnatic singing, which are Classical South Asian art forms. Even though I eventually became proud of my South Indian identity, I never truly felt a sense of South Asian community outside of dance and singing classes at first. Later on, in high school, I became involved in social justice through my school’s Gay Straight Alliance, and pursued this in addition to dancing Bharatanatyam and singing in my high school choirs.
While I had been passionate about justice-related issues in high school, it wasn’t until I got to college that I became really active in social and racial justice and in multicultural circles. College was incredibly formative for me. Thanks to some influential peers and professors, I grew into a community leader during college. I ended up dedicating as much time to activism as I did to studying. I was heavily involved as a leader in social and racial justice as well as multicultural and multifaith organizations. I was also an avid performer on South Asian dance teams for my last three years of college and am proud to be a Founding Mother of Delta Phi Omega Sorority, Inc., a South Asian-based sorority.
After interning with AALEAD the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, I became incredibly passionate about education and programming. For the next two years, in addition to my involvements in the aforementioned organizations, I became involved in a dialogue initiative called the SEED Dialogue, hosted by William & Mary’s Center for Student Diversity. In my SEED Dialogues, I would bring together groups of students from all different backgrounds to talk about important issues that we were passionate about, but perhaps had differing experiences or opinions on. As a facilitator, it was my hope that this group of people, despite our different values and political beliefs, could learn from each other through our personal stories, and find common threads which unite us. I bring much of my experience from the SEED Dialogue into my new role as VA Middle School Program Coordinator. It is my goal that youth become more informed about important topics and are able to form their own opinions independently and organically.
To me, the most important aspect of my college experience was becoming comfortable and empowered enough to get involved in leadership and activism. I hope to facilitate similar kinds of spaces and foster such agency within the youth I work with, so that they can experience and create opportunities to thrive.