CAPAL Scholar Spotlight Nishara Gunasekara ’18

Nishara is a rising senior at Scripps College studying Economics and Feminist, Gender, Sexuality studies. This summer, Nishara is working at the Child’s Welfare League of America in its Practice Standards department. There, she will work alongside experts to develop evidence-based methodologies that aim to help public and private agencies obtain optimal outcomes for children and families on welfare.

What are some things that you did not expect coming into the internship?

I did not expect for my office to be around the corner from the White House, directly across the street from the American Bar Association, and within eyesight of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Washington Monument! Coming from Southern California where my surroundings are characterized by palm trees and bumper-to-bumper traffic, I find it so incredible to be able to work in a metropolitan area from 9 to 5 and then, pass the Potomac river on my way home in Arlington, Virginia.


Why is public service important to you?

Public service is important to me because it builds towards a future where people care for others and fight for causes even when we don’t necessarily have to. Without public service, communities would continue to be systemically marginalized, voices would go unheard, and everyone would just be entirely disconnected from one another. Public service gives people the freedom to follow their unique passions and still make positive impacts on society. That being said, public service is not just the type of career you take on. It’s the intention driving your career that defines your work as public service. It’s really important to constantly reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing and to remain honest with your work.

What are the projects that you’re working on this summer and how are they connected to your interests in public service?

As a Practice Standards researcher for the Child Welfare League of America, some of the main projects that I will be primarily focused on this summer include: publishing reports on how the United States can effectively address its child trafficking epidemic from both preventative and rehabilitative standpoints; researching information on how U.S. immigration procedures have endangered unaccompanied minors from Mexico, Latin America, and other regions; and identifying the most effective fiscal strategies for states to practice in order to best serve children and families on welfare given the Families First Act. These projects are all intimately connected to my personal and professional mission to serve and protect vulnerable children and families from discrimination, exploitation, and other threats to their safety and well-being.

What is something that people usually don’t expect or know about you?

I don’t know if this is a symptom from being in Europe for a semester or a sign of adulthood, but I drink black coffee now.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

The best piece of advice I have received is to be intentional, not transactional when you build relationships with people. Sometimes the people who you hope to be there for you and pull you up, may not be reaching down for you. That is why it is so important to take advantage of your cohort, build each other up, and move forward together.



Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.

Sharon Le is a rising third-year student at the University of Virginia, double majoring in Psychology and Spanish, on the Pre-Law track. Sharon served as the External Vice President for the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA@UVA) the past year, and is also involved in Phi Alpha Delta – the International Pre-Law Fraternity, and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team at the University. She was greatly exposed to the Asian Pacific American representation not only through her involvement with the Vietnamese community in Northern Virginia with VSA but also through her background – having grown up in Vietnam and moving to America in high school. Sharon hopes to promote Asian Pacific American leadership with her commitments and to give the community a bigger voice in the country.