This post highlights Leangelo Acuna form Newport News, VA. He graduated from the University of Virginia this past spring and is currently doing research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
What was the moment in your life when you realized you wanted to explore public service?
I have always held stances on various social issues, but it was only until college where I got to meet people with different backgrounds and experiences regarding these issues and learn how their lives have been affected. My third year at the University of Virginia was especially influential to me, when events such as the Rolling Stone article on sexual assault and rape and the arrest of Martese Johnson, and it drove me to look for ways in which I could advocate and make change through public service.
What are your main responsibilities at your position? What are you looking forward to the most in your position?
I work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in their Diet, Genomics, and Immunology Lab in Beltsville, Maryland. Given my background in the sciences, a lot of the material that I learned about and understood in theory in college is directly applied to and put into practice during the course of the day. The projects that I have been assigned to focus on the effects of Vitamins A and D, and selenium on infectious and chronic diseases. Procedures such as polymerase chain reactions, plating of bacterial colonies, and gel electrophoresis are just some of the laboratory techniques that I have been able to develop at this internship. A student in school is only exposed to so much in a classroom setting, but being in an actual lab where these practices happen every day is a great experience. However, I’m not only refining my lab techniques, but through the other CAPAL activities and events, I get to build my understanding of the U.S. government and its processes, as well as how AAPIs have been able to navigate and establish themselves in this space.
How does this internship help you with your professional goals?What do you want to get out of it?
So I am personally sorting through the duality of my interests that are the driving my career path, either one in the biological sciences or one in advocacy/public service (If there is a career that implements both, hit me up). This summer I hope to gain real-life experience in both realms and discover more about myself and what exactly I want to spend the rest of my life doing. The USDA internship as well as the work I do more focused on CAPAL and leadership are great opportunities for me to explore both possibilities and develop skills and knowledge specific to both.
What is something that most people would not know about you?
A lot of people are surprised to hear that I am a quarter Japanese and that I lived in Okinawa, Japan for three years. My paternal grandmother is from the island and my dad used to be in the U.S. Navy and was able to get stationed in Okinawa in 2003. I was exposed to so much of the Japanese language and culture, and we explored so much of the island, and even visited Tokyo once. However, I was only in elementary school, so the awesomeness that was living in Japan was underappreciated and taken for granted by 9-year old me, so I hope to return someday and really experience everything and take advantage of everything it has to offer.
What are you most excited to do in Washington D.C. (or wherever you are)?
Even though I have lived in Virginia for most of my life and visited D.C., it’s a much different experience when you actually live in the city. My roommates and I have been procrastinating on this list of things to do this summer, and we really should get on it. I know we definitely want to check out some wineries, Ocean City, local restaurants, and Six Flags, just to name a few, so we really should get on that.
Leangelo Acuna is a recent graduate from the University of Virginia majoring in Biology and Environmental Science. Although previously a member of his Filipino association in his hometown of Newport News, VA, he truly took an interest and an active role in the AAPI community when arriving to college. In his time at UVA, he served as a Culture Chair, Membership Chair, and Corresponding Secretary for the Organization of Young Filipino Americans (OYFA), as well as a committee member for the Asian Student Union and the UVA Chapter of the NAACP. This summer, he will be interning for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland.
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Posted by Felicia Wong
Felicia Wong is currently a senior at the College of William and Mary, double majoring in Neuroscience and Asian American Studies, and minoring in Biochemistry. She is president of the Filipino American Student Association, and current non-academic projects include creating films calling for diversity curriculums/requirements and establishing an official APIA Studies program. Felicia was also elected president of Global Medical Brigades to lead a sustainable healthcare program in rural communities in Nicaragua. She hopes to connect her interests in healthcare with the community she has found in her cultural background. Having lived in Germany for most of her childhood, Felicia makes yearly trips back to visit her family, providing opportunities for her to indulge in her greatest joys: touring castles, eating at cafés, taking fashion cues from strangers, cooking with her family. Non-country specific pleasures include: biking, watching live music performances, screaming because Game of Thrones.