2017 Scholars and Interns

CAPAL Public Service Interns

CAPAL Public Service Interns are typically placed in internships within the organizations in Washington, DC. Interns may also be placed in regional offices throughout the country. These internship positions provide students with real-world public service experience in a range of topics and areas. CAPAL has partnerships with Federal Agencies including Forest Service, Rural Housing Service, and the National Credit Union Administration.

CAPAL Public Service Scholars

CAPAL Public Service Scholars are undergraduate and graduate students who serve in unpaid public service internships (non-profit or government) in the Washington DC area for the summer. The scholarships are intended to enable outstanding Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students with leadership potential to work full-time and learn about ways to influence public policy in their local communities.

CAPAL Public Service Interns


John Camara

John Matthew Camara is a rising junior at Hobart College in Geneva, NY. He is pursuing two majors in International Relations and Economics. John served as media coordinator for the Asian Student Union and is an advocate for the API community through his involvement with his campus’ Intercultural Affairs Office. Very much interested in discussing important issues, John competes in collegiate debate and is involved with Hobart Student Government where he served as the executive secretary and in many individual committees. He is also interested in community service as he served as Philanthropy Chair for the Sigma Chi Fraternity chapter on his campus and continues to attend service events such as alternative spring breaks and Days of Service. This summer, he will be interning with the USDA Forest Service in Washington D.C. On his free time, John likes to run, hike, and watch movies.


Jordan Choy

Jordan Choy is a rising senior at Northeastern University. He is a History major with a double minor in Political Science and International Affairs, having transferred to Northeastern University from UC Santa Cruz in 2015. He is currently serving as a Senator in the Student Government Association at Northeastern University. While studying at Northeastern he was involved in local mayoral elections as a campaign fellow in Boston and a field organizer in the neighboring town of Newton. He previously served as a public relations intern at the non-profit Kiva.org and was a Congressional intern in the District Office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. This summer he will be working as a communications intern with the Natural Resource Manager at the USDA Forest Service.


Starla Couso

Starla Couso is a rising senior at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She is studying to earn her BS in Environmental Policy and Planning with minors in Women and Gender Studies as well as Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Her academic interests include environmental justice, mixed-use zoning, transit oriented development, and intersectional and discourse analysis. On campus, she is involved in CommonWealth of Scholars, a club promoting the achievement of underrepresented groups, while serving on its community service board. She has written and spoken for the Community Narrative Diversity Project promoted by the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Additionally, she has presented at the Women and Gender Studies Student Conference on Digital Feminism. During her free time she enjoys reading, writing poetry, and playing the violin. This summer, she is excited to be working for the United States Forest Service in Washington, DC.


Neil Decenteceo

From West Palm Beach, Florida, Neil Decenteceo is a first-year, graduate student pursuing his Master’s degree in Political Science, along with a Public Affairs Certificate, at the University of Florida (UF). He also received his BA in Political Science at UF (Go Gators!). Prior to becoming an intern with CAPAL, Neil worked as a public speaking instructor for the UF Dial Center for Written and Oral Communication and as an assistant coach for the UF Speech and Debate Team. He has previously interned for the Borgen Project, a non-profit organization that advocates for global poverty-fighting legislation and a stronger International Affairs Budget. In his first year of graduate school, Neil has served as a graduate student senator, as well as a member of the Mental Health Committee for the UF Graduate Assistants Union, which seeks to improve mental health resources for all UF students. When he is not reading up on current events and contemplating different public service career paths, he enjoys singing Frank Sinatra songs, eating, and catching up on great Netflix shows.


Melody Fan

Melody Fan is currently studying Economics and Environmental Policy at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. Fan is devotes much of her efforts to Agape Christian Fellowship (ACF), a predominantly Asian christian group on her campus. She is also involved in Greater City, an organization dedicated to alleviating relational poverty by forming genuine friendships with those living through homelessness. This past year, Fan studied gentrification, affordable housing, and environmental justice in the D.C. Anacostia region. Two years ago, Fan interned and canvassed with Environment America for the passage of a Clean Water Act amendment. She is a recent graduate from the Global Leadership Development Institute (GLDI) as well as a previous intern at the National Institute of Standards of Technology (NIST). During her free time, Fanlikes to take naps outside and spend time with loved ones.


Richard Fu

Richard Fu is a rising sophomore studying biochemistry and computer science at Vanderbilt University. His first exposure to issues regarding Asian Pacific-American representation in public service came from his early volunteer service with the Boy Scouts of America. Despite the fact that he represented a minority race as an individual, Richard performed more volunteer service and eventually attained many leadership positions and accolades. During the school year, he participates in the Asian American Student Association, which aims to promote diversity and awareness of Asian-American customs and plays in the Vanderbilt Commodore Orchestra. Richard also works works as a high school student mentor and ACT/SAT tutor with CollegeVine, which specializes in college admissions and standardized test preparation. Outside of academics, Richard enjoys backpacking, playing sports with friends, and playing cello.


Ariel Higuchi


Ariel Higuchi is a Junior majoring in History at Brown University. Her field of focus is in modern US history and 20th century Japanese history. Most of her work outside of her classes is focused in direct service and advocacy work through Brown University’s Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), an official organization through the Swearer Center for Public Service. This coming year Ariel will be one of the advocacy chairs for HOPE and continue fighting for structural change for those experiencing homelessness. She will also continue her night-time outreach work to provide services for people in downtown Providence. Prior to this summer, Ariel was a legal intern for the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. Last year, she also interned with Matanya’s Hope, a nonprofit, working to provide access to education for children in rural regions of Southwestern Kenya. Before that, Ariel interned with Best Buddies Nevada which focuses on social inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; her work was focused within their adult job placement program. Ariel is committed to exploring different modes of social change. This summer, via CAPAL, Ariel will work for the Department of Sustainability under the US Department of Forestry in Juneau, Alaska.


Crystal Im


Crystal is a rising senior at the University of California, San Diego. She is currently studying Public Health with a minor in Business. On campus, Crystal is the VP of Finance for a pro-bono consulting organization, Cornerstone Community Consultants, Customer Information Associate at UCSD Student Business Services, and Undergraduate Advisor of an innovative humanitarian engineering program, Global TIES at UCSD. She is interested in pursuing a career in the field of Health Administration and Management with hopes of creating more equal opportunities in access to proper health care. In her free time, she enjoys cooking new recipes, traveling, and trying out popular foods in the local area.


Farjana Islam


Farjana is a recent graduate from Hunter College at the City University of New York with a BA in Psychology with a Certificate in Public Policy and concentrations in Human Rights and Asian American Studies. She became captivated by the issues affecting the AAPI community after attending the NYC Asian American Student Conference. Farjana credits her passion to the Asian American Studies Department at Hunter College and her fellow members of CRAASH (The Coalition for Revitalization of Asian American Studies at Hunter). As a daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants from Brooklyn, she recently completed her Public Policy Capstone discussing the unmet health needs of Bangladeshi Muslim women in New York City. In addition, her previous experiences at the National Park Service, Peer Health Exchange, BOOM!Health, and VOCAL-NY have sparked her interest in a career intersecting public health, public policy, and social justice. She is excited to gain more experience in public service at the U.S. Forest Service this summer.


Vivian Kim


Vivian Kim ’19 is a rising third year at the University of Virginia, pursing a double major in Chinese and Foreign Affairs. Having spent three years abroad in China, she is interested in the implementation of international public relations and its challenges cross-culturally. At UVA, she expresses her passion for fostering community and serving her peers through her involvements in Housing and Residence Life and the Alumni Association; in addition to serving as an Resident Advisor to first-year girls, she is also very active in event planning and marketing for her Class Council. This summer she will be interning for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in their Grants Division.


Justine Kim


Justine Kim is a rising junior studying Social Policy and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. Growing up as an Asian American in the Midwest has informed her experience as an AAPI and ultimately led to her passion for AAPI advocacy. This past year, Justine served as the Outreach Chair of the Korean American Student Association (KASA) and served as a Senator for the Associated Student Government (ASG) representing the interests of the Korean American community. She is passionate about engaging her communities in civic engagement through voting and the arts and been a part of various initiatives through MAASU, Kollaboration Chicago, and KACE. Justine is currently a Communications Intern at the Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington D.C.


Richard Li


Richard is a recent graduate from the University of Florida, holding a B.S. in Computer Science. At UF, he was an active member of the Asian American Student Union, and later a board member of the Chinese American Student Association. Having a flair for storytelling, he directed two cultural shows during his tenure which conveyed Chinese American cultural values and pride through skits and performances. Additionally, he was a member of the Asian American Activism Initiative, a program closely affiliated with UF’s Department of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs that presented seminars relating to Asian American activism throughout the United States. Outside of activist work, he also volunteered for various science-educational initiatives such as SwampHacks and the regional Science Bowl alongside completing coursework towards his degree. This summer, he will be interning for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in Washington, D.C., assisting the office with its technical needs and goals.


Ting Lin


Ting is a rising senior at Baruch College pursuing a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Chinese. She was first introduced to social issues during her time as a youth leader with CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities’ Asian Youth in Action (AYA) Program. Through AYA, she co-led Know Your Rights training, facilitated political education workshops and helped to organize an art exhibit. This past summer, she and eight other facilitators for Chinatown Youth Initiatives developed an eight-week summer program for Asian American youth in New York City to engage in conversations about contemporary Asian American issues. She is passionate about youth power and language justice. In the future, Ting hopes to directly serve the AAPI community. In her free time, she enjoys trying new food, searching for cheap flight tickets, and journaling.


Bernadette Mead


Bernadette Mead was born and raised in the Philippines. At age eleven, she immigrated to the United States. She is a rising junior at American University in Washington D.C. majoring in Business Administration, specializing in Entrepreneurship and Finance with a minor in Economics and a Certificate in Community-Based Research. She is also a member of the CAS Leadership and Ethical Development Program and recently led an Alternative Break to Honduras focusing on Youth Empowerment and Community Development through the Arts. Inspired by her humble beginnings, Bernadette has dedicated much of her youth to causes that benefit underserved children in her community. She is currently coordinating a fundraising campaign for a Honduran NGO, OYE, to raise money for college scholarships for underprivileged students in Honduras.

The experience that she wants to take away from her USDA International Service Internship is to successfully manage a work-life balance, be a direct and efficient communicator and most importantly, to learn more about the importance of protecting the health and value of American agriculture and natural resources.


Maki O’Bryan


Maki O’Bryan is a rising junior studying international studies and political science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. At Michigan Maki is involved in the APIA community and serves on the executive board for the Japan Student Association and is a part of the United Asian American Organization. She is also a member of the pre-law fraternity Kappa Alpha Pi and is a a volunteer at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. Maki was raised in San Francisco and enjoys traveling, cooking and going to concerts.


Emily Okikawa


Emily Okikawa is a recent graduate from Franklin & Marshall College with a major in Environmental Studies, and a minor in East Asia Area studies. Having grown up in Honolulu, Hawaii she learned to appreciate the natural world around us at a very young age.
As a previous summer intern at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she has written about environmental justice issues and assisted in public outreach efforts in Flint, Michigan, inspiring her to specialize in stakeholder engagement. She also spearheaded a project that created a timeline of AANHPI contributions to the environmental justice movement. Her experiences have expanded to include a semester at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, to serving as a delegate in the 67th Japan-American Student Conference in Tokyo. Recently, Emily spent her final semester of her undergraduate career in Tokyo, Japan, focusing on her minor in East-Asia Area Studies, and completing an independent project on Environmental Justice issues in the Kansai Region.


Marcia Saetang


Originally from the metro-Atlanta area, Marcia Saetang is a rising junior at Wesleyan University. She is pursuing a double major in Government and Economics and is working to receive her Certificate in the College of East Asian Studies or International Relations. This past school year, Marcia was honored to serve as the Head Mentor for Wesleyan’s QuestBridge Scholar Network, which supports students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds. Back at home, Marcia’s previous involvement with the Thai Association of Georgia and the Gwinnett Student Leadership Team has given her the passion to serve others, and she hopes to pursue a career in which she can empower others to do the same. Marcia enjoys giving tours of Wesleyan, listening to R&B music, and because of her Laotian-Thai heritage, enjoys really spicy food.


Camille Sanchez


Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, Camille Sanchez traveled 2,000 miles to attend Pomona College in southern California, where she majors in Public Policy Analysis (concentration in Economics) and minors in Art. In her time at Pomona, she has served as: an art teacher and writing mentor for the Weekly Writing Workshop, a program helping foster creativity in local under-served youth; a volunteer tutor at the Saturday Tongan Education Program (STEP), an academic support program for local Tongan youth; a mentor for the Asian American Mentor Program, in which she helps API first-years adjust to college as well as introduces them to identity/racial politics; and Vice President of Kasama Filipinx/American Students Organization, where she strives to increase visibility of the Filpinx community and its issues. In the upcoming year, she will be serving as president of Kasama and an intern at her campus’s Asian American Resource Center. She is passionate about educational accessibility, representation, disaggregating data of the API community, decolonization, and social justice. On the side, she enjoys baking sweets, painting/drawing, and reading comics.


Javan Santos


Currently attending the University of Guam, Javan Santos is a sophomore studying political science with a minor in mathematics. Passion for policy shows in his roles both as a staff assistant working for Senator Telena Nelson in the Guam Legislature and in his capacity as the Speaker of the Guam Youth Congress. Both roles require him to research, draft and debate legislation on issues from energy to education to reproductive rights. Javan is a native Guamanian, or Chamorro, and has authored and passed several resolutions on Pacific Islander issues, from native language education to unifying peoples and governments divided by war and colonization. Preserving the environment is also one of his passions, and he makes his mark through Coastal Cleanups and performing skits at schools to teach children to protect the environment. On his off time, Javan enjoys hiking and engaging with the beauty of the tropical island, spending time at the beach, swimming, and playing video games with friends.


Steven Xie


Steven Xie is a rising senior at Georgetown University who is pursuing a double major in Government and Economics. Steven has been an advocate for the Asian/Pacific Islander student community since his arrival on campus. He served as the Co-President of the Asian American Student Association, and helped to establish the Asian Pacific Islander Leadership Forum to unify and provide a voice for the Asian/Pacific Islander community at the university. Prior to his internship with the USDA Forest Service, Steven completed internships with the DC Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments and the Office of Congressman Frank Pallone. After graduation, he plans to pursue a JD degree and will continue advocating for Asians and Pacific Islanders.


Alain Xiong-Calmes

Alain Xiong-Calmes is a rising Senior at American University’s School of Public Affairs (SPA), where he is pursuing a Bachelor of the Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies: Communication, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government, and a minor in Economics. He is a member of the SPA Leadership Program, where he was a Teaching Assistant as a Sophomore. This past year, he has served as President of Mu Beta Psi, a music service fraternity, and as Principal Cellist of the American University Symphony Orchestra. During his time at American University thus far, he has served as a Team Leader for DC Reads, a non-profit that seeks to improve low literacy rates in our nation’s capital, worked for his University’s Housing and Dining Programs, and interned for Campaign Finance Consultants, a national campaign fundraising firm. Alain is from outside of Philadelphia and “trusts the process.” He will be interning with the USDA Forest Service in their Region 5 headquarters in California as a Sustainable Operations & Climate Change Assistant this summer.


Evan Yoshimoto


Evan Yoshimoto is an undergraduate student at the University of California- Berkeley, double majoring in Environmental Economics & Policy and Conservation & Resource Studies. During the school year, Evan works as a research assistant on campus focusing on sustainable welfare metrics, diversifying academic canons, a critical environmental justice, and honeybee declines in California. He holds passion for environmental justice, LGBTQIA+ justice, sustainable economies, inclusivity, diversity, and creating equitable change. As a member of the Students of Color Environmental Collective, Evan works with fellow members to organize for issues of environmental justice on and off campus at UC Berkeley. This summer, Evan is interning with the U.S. Forest Service and is working on a variety of projects between State & Private Forestry and Fire & Aviation Management


Jun Zhong


Jun Zhong is a Program Policy intern at the Lyndon B. Johnson Job Corps Center and a rising junior at the University of California, Berkeley, studying Statistics and Economics. A first-generation immigrant and college student who grew up among deep class and racial tension, he strives to build toward social justice and positive peace among communities at differing intersections of race, culture, and class. On campus, he builds toward positive peace through empowering historically underrepresented students. He serves as their campus public defender in the Office of the Student Advocate, instructs a self-developed course on productivity optimization, and designed and implemented some of the first basic needs security programs in the country. Off the campus, he builds toward social justice through involving himself in local elections at his hometown of San Francisco and volunteering as a First Aid/CPR Instructor for the American Red Cross. One can often find Jun reading, hiking, meditating, and diversifying his ideological and cultural awareness through conversing with strangers.

CAPAL Public Service Scholars


Anna Casalme


Interns and Scholars Anna Gabriella Casalme is an alumna of Stanford University, where she received her Bachelors in Human Biology and Education. Anna is an aspiring pediatrician with long-standing interests in child and adolescent health as well as public service. She has served as an AmeriCorps member with AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles and Orange County, where she worked on a clinic-based pediatric weight management program as well as health promotion programming in Los Angeles Unified School District. During the 2017 election cycle, she was a voter registration organizer with the California Planned Parenthood Education Fund. She is currently a consultant with the California School-Based Health Alliance and sits on the Board of Directors for the National School-Based Health Alliance. She will be attending the University of Edinburgh for graduate school in Fall 2017. In her spare time, she enjoys geeking out over healthcare policy, having impromptu dance parties and eating chocolate-covered pretzels.


Areeba Haider


Areeba is a rising senior at the University of Michigan studying Public Policy with a concentration on Housing and Transportation and a minor in Writing. On campus, she actively pursues social justice opportunities to supplement her interest in systemic oppression and inequity. She has served on the e-board of the South Asian Awareness Network (SAAN), an organization that seeks to center South Asian voices, and as an editor for The Michigan Daily’s Michigan in Color section, which promotes stories written by students of color. She is excited to learn more about the federal policymaking and budget process through her internship with the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management. In her free time, she can be found reading, hanging out with friends, or watching reality TV.


Michelle Liu


Michelle Liu is a rising senior at the University of Michigan pursuing a double major in International Studies and Political Science, with a minor in the Environment. While her majors reflect her career interests in international relations and foreign policy, she also has a great passion for issues such as environmental sustainability, promoting APIA leadership, and improving APIA civic engagement. Those passions have, in turn, influenced her choice in her extracurricular activities. As a research assistant over the past year, Michelle focused on the influence of intersectionality on voter perception of public service candidates. At UMich, Michelle is the former treasurer and current president of the Multicultural Greek Council, a member of the University of Michigan Public Service Internship Program, and a committee of the annual charity ball for the past three years. In addition, she has worked to promote APIA voter engagement as an APIAVote Student Ambassador, and was an executive board member of Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc., an organization that seeks to empower APIA women in leadership and community building. Apart from those activities, Michelle loves exploring new places, going on food adventures, and adding to her book/music/plant collections. This summer, Michelle is excited to be broadening her perspectives on domestic and international environmental policy by working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a policy intern for the Office of Air and Radiation.


Justin Rose


Justin Rose is a rising junior at American University pursuing a dual degree in Economics and International Relations. Adopted from South Korea and raised in Wisconsin, Justin was first exposed to the AANHPI community upon his arrival to American University. At American, Justin was an On-Campus Coordinator for Peace in East Asia Through Creative Engagement, a student organization devoted to creating a platform for students, scholars, and professionals to exchange creative approaches to subjects related to East Asian affairs. This next year Justin will study abroad at the London School of Economics. This summer, he will be interning for the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Chief Economist here in D.C. His areas of interest are East Asian affairs, environmental issues, and economics. In his free time, Justin enjoys reading, fishing, and watching Game of Thrones.


Emily Short


Emily Short is the immigration policy intern for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). She is a recent graduate of Vassar College with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with concentrations in History and French and Francophone Studies. She spent her senior year working on her thesis entitled “The Refugee Problem”: An Examination of among Refugee Resettlement in Minnesota and its Relevance to the Modern-day Refugee Crisis. She is an OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates intern alumna, where she worked on public policy and civic engagement. Originally from the Midwest, Emily is a second-generation Vietnamese-Caucasian American. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and cooking good food for her friends and family.


Carlo Tuason


A rising fifth-year at the University of Cincinnati, Carlo is pursuing a double major in Violin Performance and International Affairs. He has maintained active roles in the Vietnamese Student Association, both on his campus and throughout the region, as well as the Student Diversity and Inclusion Council. Through these experiences he has strived to promote and nurture safe spaces for AAPI students and cultural awareness. Carlo hopes to bring together both of his degrees (the intersection of art and politics) to pursue a career in Asian American Cultural Programming and plans to pursue an MFA in Art History or MA in Asian American Studies. He has previously interned for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Asian American Literary Review, as he believes that art and culture are integral and often overlooked means of advocacy, community building, and identity formation. He looks forward to returning to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center this summer as a curatorial research intern. His musical endeavors have allowed him the opportunity to perform at and attend music festivals across the US and in Japan.