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  • Mihiri Kotikawatta

WLP 2020 Week 2: Personal Narratives and Self Care

Week 2 of WLP could not have started off any better than with having Alumni Happy Hour on Monday. Despite the challenges of hosting a virtual happy hour via zoom, happy hour was exactly that - happy! The 2020 scholars were able to virtually meet a large number of ecstatic WLP alumni who shared their wisdom with us about making the most out of our WLP experience. From meeting a fellow Sri Lankan WLP alum to hearing about D.C. experiences, I definitely zoomed out of the happy hour feeling so grateful to be a part of the WLP family.

On Tuesday we participated in a workshop where we evaluated our personal narratives. The workshop was led by Ashwin Warrior who did a phenomenal job of navigating us through the art of explaining your life’s story. Perhaps the highlight of my WLP week was sitting back and listening to fellow scholars share their personal narratives and overcoming the nerves to share myself. By hearing detailed narratives from each scholar, I felt so honored and privileged to know each one of them and to be a part of the cohort with them. Not only did working on narratives help me feel closer to the rest of the scholars, I also began to better understand the backstories to their passions and interests. To me, the personal narrative workshop gave me much needed time to reflect and practice verbally articulating how the experiences I had attending underfunded schools in South San Diego ultimately paved the way for me to be interested in education reform. The workshop also helped me think about other narratives I had based on other identities I also carried such as being Sri Lankan American.

The next day, WLP Scholars got to spend some much needed time with Nithyaa Venkataramani where we cultivated a safe space to talk about stress and anxiety. During the workshop we took a few minutes to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the week to just center ourselves around our breathing and to focus on the present moment. The scholars then opened up the floor to share personal tips they had on ways to feel less stress. We then ended our session by writing down three things we are grateful for in life. One of the things I wrote down was how grateful I was for the past two weeks for WLP connecting me with so many incredible individuals. I can speak for all of us by saying we ended Nithyaa’s workshop feeling relaxed and ready to tackle the rest of the week.

Fast forward to Thursday, a day I was looking forward to since interns at Congressman Bera’s office were scheduled to speak with the boss himself at noon! Despite having a busy day, the Congressman was kind to take time out of his day to really listen and thoroughly answer questions interns had for him. As a fellow South Asian American, I had to ask Congressman Bera about ways he believed could increase South Asian American political participation. We also talked about the important role younger generation South Asian Americans have to bring about positive change in the community.

Overall, my time with WLP has been simply life changing. Though it has only been two weeks, I have learned so many valuable lessons and have engaged in so many valuable conversations that I plan on remembering for the rest of my life. Most importantly, by meeting so many alums, I finally understand the importance of the ‘pay it forward mentality’. As I am gaining a significant amount of mentors through WLP, I am also anticipating for the day that I too can pay it forward and be a part of a larger movement to connect young South Asian American youth with South Asian American leaders. This past week has left me feeling extremely appreciative.

Mihiri Kotikawatta

Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7)

University of California San Diego

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