Farjana Islam, a Bengali Brooklyn native, is a recent graduate from Hunter College at the City University of New York, where she received her B.A. in Psychology and Public Policy Certificate (concentration in Health Policy), with minors in Human Rights and Asian American Studies. She is currently serving as a Conservation Education Intern at the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C.
What major projects are you working on in your internship? What responsibilities are you most excited about and why?
At the U.S. Forest Service, I am assisting with the production of “CavesLIVE,” one of the distance learning programs featured on the FSNatureLIVE (fsnaturelive.org) website where students and teachers can go online to learn about the different aspects of their national forests. I’m having a blast learning about how caves form, the distinct zones in caves, and the flora and fauna associated with caves. It also has been thrilling to have a primary role in incorporating a student into the developing stages of the script so that students can see themselves reflected in the program. In addition, I am part of an amazing intern team working with partner organizations to create a communications strategy called “Extendiendo Ramas” (Extending Branches) to inform predominantly Latino communities on the connections between forest health and human health and empower these communities to become stewards of the forest and citizen scientists in their local park or forest. I will be also assisting the Director of Conservation Education/Acting Director of Heritage, Recreation, and Volunteer Services with her tasks and schedule. Here, I am eager to learn more of how it all ties into the mission of the U.S. Forest Service: caring for the land and serving people. I’ve also had some fun with Smokey the Bear & Woodsy the Owl, the American conservation icons!
When did you realize you wanted to explore public service?
My career goal had always been to give back to my community, yet public service didn’t become tangible to me until I became a JFEW (Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women) Eleanor Roosevelt Scholar at Hunter College. I learned that public policy influenced the health and wellbeing of our local communities, and determines our education, housing, how many green spaces are in our neighborhoods, etc. Policy became personal.
My internship at BOOM!Health, a community based organization in the South Bronx, opened my eyes to the history underlying the poorest congressional district in the United States, and the stigma facing active drug users. JFEW offered me the opportunity to take my first trip to Washington D.C. and learn about the roles and organizations that I could potentially be a part of to create positive social change. Afterwards, public service became an invaluable core to my career goals. My pursuit of public service has catapulted me into the CAPAL program, and I’m ecstatic to be back in D.C. in a more full-time capacity.
What are your plans/ goals after this internship? Are there any goals you want to accomplish this summer?
This summer, I am working on meeting more Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) folks in the DMV area, and learning about their work serving the community and their backgrounds which have shaped their lives today. The CAPAL cohort has not only been a family, but also a group of thoughtful, inspiring souls with stories and moments that have made me realize how truly diverse and empowering the AANHPI community is. I also hope to visit all the amazing museums in Washington D.C. so that I can be connected to other communities’ stories and learn more about the world we live in.
CAPAL has invigorated me to become more involved in the Asian American community, and I plan to work with AANHPI organizations in the future. I also hope to contribute to the Coalition to Revitalize Asian American Studies at Hunter (C.R.A.A.S.H.), and support its effort to establish an Asian American Studies major at my alma mater. I am looking forward to taking steps to solidify my interest in a career intersecting social services and health policy.
What are you looking forward to in DC / where your internship is located?
Washington D.C. has been an exhilarating experience for me, and I want to explore everything in our nation’s capital! My colleagues at the U.S. Forest Service hyped me up to visit the National Arboretum, and check out the expanse of nature in the neighborhood. Before I leave, I want to visit Femme Fatale DC, a pop up collective of womyn creatives and small business owners, founded by Yasmin Radbod, one of the speakers at the first WLP session we had this summer: Advocacy in the Arts. I can’t wait to get to know the rest of the #CAPALfamily as well. On a smaller level, I hope to see more #LittleFreeLibrary stations, deer grazing, and more rabbits pattering around on my walk home from work.
What do you do for fun?
I recently got a chance to kayak in the Potomac River to see the full moon rise over the Kennedy Center, and I hope to ride the Capitol Bikes around the D.C. area. I also enjoy attempting recipes: I just learned how to roll sushi and made mango chutney! I like to unwind with a great book and a cup of tea, hang out in nature, practice yoga, crochet soft and fluffy accessories, and jam out to Bollywood movies. I cannot wait for some #CAPALKaraoke to end off this amazing summer!
What has been the most interesting/ meaningful thing you’ve learned from CAPAL’s Washington Leadership Program so far? Why?
The fourth WLP session, “Stories Behind the Data: Data Disaggregation,” discussed the need for more detailed data in the AANHPI community to address the model minority myth and advocate for the different ethnic communities.
Ryan Masaaki Yokota said to bring ourselves “out of the data into humanity and lived experiences.” For example, he told us how he learned about sweatshop labor when he was younger, but it struck him when he visited his friend Jack’s house and saw sewing machines and clothes on the ground. Stories also may unearth trends that don’t show up in the data. He empowered us to collect these stories and tell our own stories. In an era where we must hold fast to facts, it is important to hold onto the memories, experiences and people that are represented in numbers and percentages. We must reclaim our stories and ourselves.
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Posted by Nattacha Munakata
Nattacha Munakata is currently a rising sophomore at George Mason University, studying Community Health with a concentration in Clinical Science (Pre-med). On campus, she is Peer Health Advisor, working to raise awareness and educate students on health issues. She is also involved in TEDxGMU and Thai Student Association. Outside, she likes to volunteer for local organizations and events, such as the DC Sakura matsuri and her local FIRST robotics team. During her free time, she likes to watch Netflix dramas and explore new music.