From the president

Priya Thelapurath is in her third year at Harvard College. She has distinguished herself in the depth of her commitment to serving the communities in both her home state of Arkansas and Boston, her adopted home. Many of our students arrive with visions of changing the world, few understand the level of engagement, dialogue, and time real change takes. Priya is an exception. While other students sample different opportunities, Priya has chosen to commit her time and skills to core service programs. Since arriving at Harvard, Priya has dedicated her time to lead our largest public service organization and serve Boston’s South End community as a director of the Keylatch After School Program and a network of affordable summer camps. In this capacity, she works with community partners to develop programming for youth in Boston. While at college, she continues to build the debate and activism-centered non-profit, founded while in high school, for young women in rural Arkansas. Her project for the Newman Civic Fellowship will focus on her efforts to sustain and develop the Arkansas-based non-profit, LOUDWomen.

Varsha Ghosh PhD

Director, Student Engagement & Leadership

Harvard University


Personal Statement

In the male-dominated world of debate, judges were more likely to focus on the tiny hole in my tights or the volume of my voice rather than the content of my argument. After learning that this was a familiar experience for many of my peers, my frustration motivated me to give middle school girls from rural communities a platform to discuss similar experiences with sexism while learning argumentation skills. After co-founding LOUDwomen in 2019, I recognized that we needed to shift organizational priorities. Rather than focusing solely on debate, which can be limiting in its content and lingo, LOUDwomen pivoted to teaching participants how to take action on issues they care deeply about. From building confidence in policy forums to modeling leadership in speaker series, LOUDwomen now focuses its programming on the tangible skills that stuck with me even after my time in debate. We use four foundational pillars - action, confidence, education, and leadership - to empower our young people to actively engage with social issues that impact them everyday. Through 5 annual programs reaching 100+ youth participants and volunteers across 20 states, LOUDwomen uniquely provides opportunities for civic learning alongside in-depth and experiential leadership development for young women in Arkansas.

Priya Thelapurath

Sociology/Computer Science

Harvard University