It’s hard to imagine that just a little over a year ago, the idea for the New Jersey Leadership Program (NJLP) was born. At the time, we saw an unmet need within the South Asian community in New Jersey. A need that was being met by many national organizations in Washington, D.C., however nothing in a state that holds one of the highest concentrations of South Asians in the country. So a group of folks from our community and supporters of the community came together to change this, and that is how the idea of starting the NJLP was created.
An idea that we imagined could work, because it worked for me. I took part in leadership and government related programs for the South Asian community including the Washington Leadership Program when I was in college, a program for college students that was created many years ago to allow more South Asians to get involved in government and politics when there were virtually none. While programs such as this one are truly remarkable, we realized there was no program in our own state that built a pipeline into these national programs for students to start thinking about early in their development, when they are considering their career options.
If we can have the first African-American president, the first woman to clinch the nomination of any major party for the highest office in the land, this begs the question of why not a South Asian president. Why doesn’t the South Asian community, which has one of the highest levels of educational attainment, one of the highest levels of socioeconomic progress, and is part of the fastest growing racial minority in the country, have more representation at all levels of government?
The truth is that there are more South Asians starting to take part in the political process and in government, both at the electoral level in running for public office and on the staff levels, albeit at a slow and gradual pace. We believe that this integration of our community in government and politics can be accelerated through programs at the local level and for youth at an early age in their educational development. This is why we believe that the NJLP serves a critical purpose for our community.
Since that idea for the NJLP took root in August of 2015, the NJLP has since become a formal 501(c)3 non-profit organization and we launched our first Summer Fellowship Program this past summer. A launch year that included ten youth throughout the state of New Jersey ranging from middle school, high school and college students.
Our NJLP Fellows have received practical experience through their internships with the Governor’s Office, their State Legislators and with their respective town council. In addition to their internship placement, they have heard from dozens of elected officials, community leaders and executives from various sectors.
Given the success of the NJLP’s launch year, we have decided to offer the Summer Fellowship Program again next year and through the foreseeable future. The NJLP would not be possible without the NJLP Executive Board, Advisory Council and fellows, but most importantly we owe a great deal of gratitude to our community and supporters who spent time and money to help start and sustain this organization. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
As our launch year officially come to a close, we hope you can continue with us through the journey of the New Jersey Leadership Program and continue to be a part of the NJLP family.