Priya Varanasi is deeply committed to social, racial and economic justice and has an incredible ability to lead the charge for issues that she is passionate about both on and off campus. She has worked on multiple political campaigns for candidates advocating progressive economic change and racial justice in New York City. In the summer before her freshman year, Priya volunteered for the State Senate campaign of Alessandra Biaggi. An articulate and enthusiastic advocate for the candidate, Priya was chosen to speak at Senator Biaggi's inauguration in the Bronx that fall. Priya has continued to work part-time on the Senator's staff as a Community Affairs Liaison. Through her work on local political campaigns, she has engaged in collaborative action with others in order to work towards long-term social change. With respect to Manhattan College’s Lasallian tradition and the values the Newman Fellowship honors, Priya uses her verbal abilities and her innate respect for others to enable her classmates to talk more openly about emotionally and intellectually complicated problems related to social justice such as enduring institutional racism. Priya’s extensive involvement with political organizing demonstrate her passion, commitment and maturity, and these qualities make our campus stronger.
Much like many of the young people galvanized by Donald Trump’s election, I seemed to have stumbled into civic engagement. As the 2018 midterm elections approached, I had the opportunity to meet Alessandra Biaggi, a progressive and an alumna of my high school who was running for State Senate. About a month before I was to graduate, she came to our school’s Women’s Empowerment Club meeting to talk about her experience running for office thus far, and to ask that we volunteer on her grassroots campaign. A few days later, a group of friends and I arrived on an afternoon in May at the campaign headquarters (which was also her parents basement), to start canvassing. I instantly fell in love with the fast-paced environment of campaigning, and to the many ways that I could connect with new people and communities. Much like many who believe in grassroots organizing, I see these connections and opportunities to push one’s own boundaries as central to addressing the root causes of social issues. I continue to use these skills in our current District Office as a Community Affairs Liaison, and will be knocking doors for progressive candidates for as long as I can.