CAPAL Intern Spotlight Angela Zhao ’18

Angela is a rising sophomore at Amherst College in Massachusetts. She plans to major in Economics, with a focus on public policy in the future. Growing up in New Jersey, Indiana, and California, she has seen the different levels of activism and diversity in AAPI communities. This summer, Angela will be interning at the USDA Forest Service in DC, working on research and development.

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

I didn’t expect the AANHPI community to be so vast in D.C., especially for being known for having a Chinatown with no Chinese. Not only is the community so tightly knit but also active in social justice and activism. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, I’ve always been aware of my identity as a Chinese American and member of the AANHPI community, however I saw it as merely another identifier or safe space. Through CAPAL I’ve been able to learn more about the issues facing the community: the lack of representation in positions of power in the federal government, the low voter turnouts, the importance of data disaggregation. The exposure to such an active AANHPI community has taught me so much about speaking up for your own community and other marginalized voices, and the utter importance of community in building political power. Basically I didn’t know AANHPI communities could be so woke

Why did you decide to spend your summer with CAPAL

At Amherst I’m planning to major in Economics but not entirely sure yet what I want to do with the degree. I know that I don’t want to go into finance or business since there’s the general sentiment that those jobs help the “rich get richer” and I want to do something I found more meaningful. For awhile, I’ve been interested in exploring international development and public policy and how economic policies are implemented. Alongside this interest, in college I’ve been learning more about issues in the AANHPI community more and trying to retain a better understanding of my identity and I found the CAPAL to be the best program and opportunity for me to explore both of those interests. I saw it advertised at my school’s career center website and decided to give it a shot. To be completely honest I wasn’t expecting to get into the CAPAL program, so when I was offered an internship at the Forest Service and the opportunity to join the CAPAL 2018 Cohort, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I wanted to spend my summer with CAPAL. And now I’m really glad I joined CAPAL not just for the chance to add something to my resume about it but also to have met so many amazing people in my cohort, the CAPAL board, mentors, panelists, etc.!!

What are the projects that you’re working on this summer and how are they connected to your interests in public service?
One of the big projects I’m working on at the Forest Service is helping to organize a national workshop on Experimental Forest Rangelands (EFRs). Due to budget cuts from the government, funding may be cut for the EFRs, which provide important research for National Forests, so it’s important for partners/stakeholders in EFRs to organize and lobby on the Hill for more funds and support. It’s interesting to see the government and political action side of what seems to be a very scientific topic and the intersections work. For the national scale meeting, I’ve been working on the meeting management package to organize all the material necessary to gain federal funds and approval to host the meeting.

For the Community Action Project (CAP) I’ve been working with Libraries Without Borders at the senior center in Chinatown. We’ve been visiting the seniors and trying to find out what resources they are interested in learning more about i.e. access to healthcare or learning English. Through the personal interactions with the seniors, in my limited Mandarin skills, I’ve been reminded of why I became interested in public service in the first place, which is to be able to personally help people and see the impacts of our work on the ground level. We’ve decided to focus on health, since after talking to many of the seniors that seemed to be the most common topic they were interested in learning more about.

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

My laugh is basically a witch cackle and sometimes if I laugh too hard I snort. Which is about 60% of the time.

What do you do in your free time?

Hike (if there are no snakes in the area because I’m terrified of those things). Eat lots of noodles, from all different cultures!!
Playing tetris and getting angry when I lose 🙁
Facetime friends even when I’m just doing homework because I’m needy!

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.