My name is Varsha, and I am a dual-degree MPA/IR student at the Maxwell School. I received an Experiential Learning Award to work as a Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellow at the DC Charter School Alliance through Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE). I worked directly with the Senior Director of Government Affairs as a liaison for the organization, providing summaries and recaps of key bills and legislative decisions at Committee of the Whole Meetings. Additionally, I conducted research on DC Council members to prepare informational background on members for future stakeholders to review and gain a stronger understanding of the political context surrounding education policy, specifically with respect to charter schools. I also took an active role in helping to develop the National School Choice Week plan and conduct research on relationship mapping tools to find the most effective platform to visualize and understand the impact of different connections on policy decisions.

Through my time as a Summer Fellow, Leadership for Educational Equity made available a series of networking events, supplemental trainings, and professional development opportunities in the area of education policy. I gained a stronger contextual understanding of policy impacts on charter schools, especially during the COVID pandemic, by attending Committee of the Whole meetings and legislative sessions to hear from the key stakeholders and strategic partners from each of the 8 DC Wards. Given the disproportionate charter school presence in Wards 7 and 8, which have been historically marginalized, under-resourced, and misrepresented, I learned the importance of community-specific reforms to create a more equitable policy landscape for the diverse residents of the DC metro area.

As a woman of color, a former teacher of color at a low-income school in North Las Vegas, and a former Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Colombia, I am committed to pursuing roles focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, specifically as they relate to closing the lifestyle gap for historically marginalized communities. Given the challenges of the current pandemic and resulting sociopolitical climate, I sought to use this Award to gain a deeper understanding of how multiculturalism and sociocultural awareness can contribute to implementing more effective and relevant policies by establishing meaningful relationships with residents of each Ward, specifically through the work of each Council member. I was able to cultivate my management and teamwork skills by observing the direct impact of research and legislative processes on constituents, which allowed me to develop more meaningful outreach strategies. This unique opportunity has taught me to continue developing my professional skills and establish meaningful relationships to create more inclusive and equitable policy reform in my current internship with the Partnership for Public Service as a Leadership Development Intern.

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

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Maxwell-in-Washington Program