(June 11, 2018) Catherine Read interviews Poojitha Tanjore, a 16 year old activist and junior at Rock Ridge High School in Ashburn, VA, who is the Northern Virginia Rise to Run pilot hub coordinator. Rise to Run is the first and only nationwide, grassroots and community based organization focused on encouraging progressive high school girls and college aged women to run for public office. Rise to Run brings young women together in their communities and gives them insight into the political process, connects them with mentors, and involves them in local organizing. Through quality, in-person, age appropriate training and on the ground networks, Rise to Run is making electoral politics and political action more accessible to young women of every identity. Poojitha oversees the Northern Virginia chapters, which span from her home county of Loudoun, to Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington counties.
Poojitha has been inspired throughout the course of her life by her great-grandmother, who was forced to marry as a child. Her great-grandmother did not have choices of her own, and her story has inspired Poojitha to take full advantage of her freedoms here in America, to forge her own path and create her own destiny. From a young age, Poojitha understood the power of her voice and her ability to affect change. She shares a funny story with Catherine about the time that her parents thought she was eating too many Maggie noodles. Poojitha gathered her friends, made protest signs, and picketed her parents until they allowed her to continue to eat her favorite noodles whenever she pleased. Thus began her life as a grass roots activist.
At the age of 13, Poojitha was accepted into the prestigious University of Virginia summer enrichment program, where she studied law and participated in a Mock Senate. Her love of public policy was cemented here, and after being voted “Best Senator” in her group, returned to Rock Ridge that year and ran for President of the student government. She very much enjoyed leading her fellow classmates to push for initiatives like free wifi throughout the school system, which she helped to bring to fruition in Loudoun County Public Schools. Poojitha understood that by diving into the issues, overcoming obstacles and working together, she would be able to pave the way for lasting change.
Poojitha learned about Rise To Run through her networks on social media, and immediately reached out to the founder and current Executive Director, Helen Brosnan. Poojitha strongly believes that young girls need to see themselves in their elected officials, so that they too can aspire to rise to those positions down the road. Poojitha founded the Loudon County chapter of Rise to Run, and was soon after followed by Price William and Fairfax Counties. The enthusiasm for the progressive movement is growing, and the desire of young people to engage and affect change is palpable. What she likes the most about this organization is that Rise to Run is giving young people the opportunity to learn and grown at a young age, in addition to giving them space to fail. Everyone needs an opportunity to learn, succeed, and occasionally fall short – it is what growing up is all about. Rise to Run encourages young people to take risks and try new things, and to use their experience to make themselves stronger for the future.
Poojitha will represent Rise to Run at the upcoming Women’s Summit hosted by Network Nova, being held at the Dulles Hyatt on June 23rd. She will be the opening speaker for a breakout session specially designed for the youth movement. Poojitha strongly believes that young people need to be nurtured so that they have an opportunity to grow, learn and succeed. Poojitha also feels strongly that adults and young people need to partner together to help solve the big problems in the world. The Parkland students have shown us what young people are capable of achieving when taken seriously and with access to resources. Young people have strong and powerful voices and that can be used to move forward positive agendas.
You can follow Rise to Run online at www.risetorun.org , on twitter @RiseToRun and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/RiseToRun.