“Knowledge is power” was a mantra heard often in Avani Chhaya’s home.
“I grew up surrounded by a love of learning,” she says. “And I couldn’t help falling in love with books and wanting to pursue a career in education myself.”
A first-generation Indian American, Avani grew up with immigrant parents “who really believed in the traditional American dream — that working hard and education paves the path for a brighter future, and that education was, and still is, the end-all, be-all.”
Avani had a vision of educational equity “where school districts in every city offer all students the best educational opportunities regardless of the zip code where they were born.” Yet she also recognized she was “sorely lacking in hands-on, practical field experience in education policy.”
Avani applied for the Policy Advisor Fellowship to have the opportunity to build relationships with key education leaders, gain tangible experience, and deepen her knowledge of policy and advocacy, all while continuing in her full-time role at the University of Texas at Austin.
Now, as a fellow for Austin Kids First, she is researching policy issues, analyzing data, speaking with community residents and school district contacts, and helping to make sure Austin Independent School District programs are equitable and beneficial for all students.
“This fellowship has been perfect for what I was looking for while working full-time. LEE has given me the opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization that has a direct impact on the local school district, so I’m developing a skill set that allows me to think critically about education policy issues and grapple with tangible topics affecting the Austin community.”
“I’m in this fellowship because I believe good policies create an equitable future for all students. And I want to be that policymaker. A policymaker that helps create hundreds and thousands of joyful, academically challenging classrooms brimming with opportunities for all students.”