CAPAL Intern Spotlight Jessica Lee ’18

Jessica Lee is a rising senior at The Ohio State University pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Engineering with hopes of attending law school. This summer, Jessica is excited to work with the USDA Forest Service, University of Hawaii at Hilo, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the University of California – Los Angeles in Hawaii to re-census and monitor native forests dynamics. She is extremely excited to immerse herself in the local culture and hopes to gain cross-cultural leadership experience.

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

When I was first told we would be hiking through various forest preserves, I was ready to start moving and learning. What I hadn’t expected was the thrilling challenge of off-trail hiking, and the beauty of the forests. Within the first few days, I was learning about Hawaii’s ecosystems and how a tropical rainforest and tropical dessert can exist in nearly the same place is amazing. Right now, I’ve been headed to the Laupahoehoe Forest helping to measure the growth of some native plant species for the 5 year census. Because the forest is above the 5,000m mark, the rainforest is so peaceful without mosquitoes, and when the trees slide against each other as they fall, they make a small whistling noise.

Why did you decide to spend your summer with CAPAL?

I attended several of CAPAL’s programming during ECAASU’s youth leadership week. Talking with the CAPAL interns and a friend who was a CAPAL scholar, I was surprised to hear about an internship program that focused on APIDA students and wanted to become a part of the community. I’m incredibly grateful that I am given this opportunity and I also can’t wait to pay it forward!

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

As the Executive Chair of the Midwest Asian American Students Union (MAASU), I’ve been focusing on getting our team ready to go with all the projects and goals we want to accomplish for the next year. MAASU is a national student-run organization with around 30 member schools focused on empowering student leaders on campus within the Midwest. Planning for our summer retreat focused on community engagement, team bonding, and leadership development has been super fun so far and I’m super excited to get everyone together! I started becoming involved with MAASU my freshman year, learning about intersectionality and activism by attending my first leadership summit conference. Becoming involved with all the confident and empowering folks made me become interested in public service and I’ll always be forever grateful!


What do you do in your free time?

I love catching up on my Netflix shows and talking with friends. Because I’m pretty busy during the school year since I usually work 2 jobs, planning friend dates and finding times that we’re all available is hard; but, it’s always a fun time seeing everyone!

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

First piece of advice I received in Hawaii,”Don’t be afraid of the cockroaches. Just take a slipper and SLAP!”. Cockroaches are unavoidable hazards in tropical areas like Hawaii. I’ve already spotted them >8x over the last 2 weeks in my room, and that’s only when I’m awake!


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.