Youth LEADers in Action
Where Are They Now?
Youth LEAD Alum Meara Sharma Shares Her Story
Where are you now?
I recently returned from Kigali, Rwanda, where I lived in a lovely house with a veranda, bunny rabbits, passion fruit trees, and folks from Germany, Italy, Tanzania, and the US. With a grant from Brown University and the AT&T foundation, I was doing research on critical thinking and creative approaches to social change, as well as freedom of creative expression....I intend to use the material I gathered to create a podcast series, as well as a sound and video installation....I also worked with a micro-grant organization that facilitates community-led development initiatives, helping to develop a project addressing malnutrition with a women's association in rural northern Rwanda.

Can you share an example of how you are using the skills you learned with Youth LEAD in your life today?
With my work with the micro-grant organization, I used facilitation skills in a very tangible way. How to organize a group of people around a particular idea, how to facilitate discussion, how to ask questions that create a space of openness and criticality, how to broach topics that are sensitive but necessary (especially with a women's association), how to flesh out problems but also remain angled toward action/solutions.

In what ways have you continued to engage diversity since high school graduation?
I've always been interested in spaces (intentional and unintentional) in which people from various backgrounds and experiences cross paths / exchange ideas / collide. But tangibly speaking: In college, I was quite involved ... organizing workshops and events on racism, feminism, pluralism, other -isms. I put together a week of events related to "South Asian Identity," which was interesting and challenging given the incredible diversity within the region of South Asia. I also helped organize a conference called "Arts in the One World," which brings together diverse artists and activists employing creativity as an instrument for social change. But really, engaging with diversity is a part of everyday life for me-- in class, at work, in conversation, in social situations, walking down the street...it is ubiquitous, unavoidable, everpresent.