CAPAL Intern Spotlight Anita Mathias ’18

Anita Mathias is an undergraduate and rising senior at Pomona College with a major in Public Policy Analysis (Psychology concentration). She is interested in public education policy, cultural and educational psychology, and womxn/adolescent health services. This summer, she will be supporting coordination and implementation of the US Forest Service’s Emergency Medical Training Program.

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

I have three big projects that I am working on this summer. The one most near and dear to my heart is that I am starting a people-of-color centered choir/singing group at Pomona College which will pilot in the fall. After spending seven years in choirs that focus on primarily Western, European music traditions, I wanted to create a space for multicultural students of color to engage in different types of music, explore their cultural and musical backgrounds, produce beautiful art regardless of their background in training or reading music, and build an inclusive, activist art community. Social movements are rooted in art, and music’s healing and community are what keep me going. I hope that through this group, people will find the same empowerment that I have.

The next project is my job with the US Forest Services: helping implement a national Emergency Medical Services program for FS employees. I believe understanding how local/state/federal must communicate, collaborate, and organize to streamline their processes is essential for public policy work. I am learning a lot from being able to examine the Forest Service structure and function through the lens of emergency healthcare services and procedures.

My third commitment is our CAPAL Community Action project with the Asian American Government Executives Network. By developing Standard Operation Procedures for the organization, we have been helping board members create a sustainable set of guidelines so that AAGEN can have an annual, long-term, growing impact on its members. AAGEN’s Leadership Development program, created to help government workers rise to senior executive rank, gave me a better sense of the challenges but also the strategies that Asian Americans in government can use to succeed and build representation.

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

I did not expect DC to feel so wonderfully small. Coming from LA County, where there are hundreds of cities within and public transportation is hardly used, I have never known the beauty of being able to walk from work to home. I am never in a hurry to get home when I do because the murals, live music, monuments, and people around town make me never want my walks to end.


Why did you decide to spend your summer with CAPAL?

This summer, my goals were to gain work experience, explore a new place on my own, and better understand my background as an Asian American. CAPAL has helped me achieve all of them. Wednesday is usually the day that I start feeling the slump of having to sit in a desk daily from 8:30 to 5, but the WLP sessions on Wednesday nights always energize me and get me through the rest of the week. . I feel so lucky to be able to spend a summer across the country with bright, kind students who are also dedicated to public service.

What do you do in your free time?

Although it’s rare that I have free time, I typically will cook, read, or call up a friend/family member and talk to them for a few hours. I really believe that friends are the family that you choose, and the beauty of being an immigrant, a college student, and an intern is that we get to have family all over the world. By calling them for a few hours, no matter where they are I can keep their love and support close to home, inspiring me throughout the week.


What is the best piece of advice you have received?

“Don’t just be yourself; advocate for yourself.” The kindest, most influential people in my life have taught me to believe I deserve the things that I want, and therefore deserve to go after them. Recognizing that I did not have to bear various struggles alone was essential for finding a support network that would empower me to do what I do now. Understanding that my struggles are not unique helped me realize that advocating for myself as a woman of color is one of the best forms of advocating for communities that I care about.


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.