Ami Bharat Chheda is an emerging leader who wants to change the lives of youth in India.
Ami visited Philadelphia for a month-long fellowship with Tomea A. Sippio-Smith, K-12 Education Policy Director at Public Citizens for Children and Youth. In her home country of India, Chheda works as a youth advocate and communications coordinator. With a passion for human rights, she helped co-found India’s Future Foundation – working to identify, educate, train and connect youth leaders committed to principles of free markets, entrepreneurship and individual liberty.
Ami pursued her fellowship in Philadelphia to expand her skills in youth programming and to lend her own expertise to a new work environment. She said, “You can only progress professionally if you have the right attitude. Sharing spaces with people of different cultures and backgrounds gives me more leadership skills.”
During the fellowship, Tomea showed Ami how we in Philadelphia work to improve policies for children and seek more funding for public schools. Ami was surprised to attend a town meeting where everyday citizens advocated for playgrounds and free libraries. In India, many parents are still working just for the opportunity for their children to go to school. Despite the differences, Ami said she felt honored to work with a new team in Philadelphia and looks forward to applying her new leadership skills to serve more youth when she returns home.
Hosting a fellow was also a valuable experience for Tomea, giving her a new perspective on women’s global equality and personal professional development. “Programs like this help develop ideas to create solutions. The more cultural exchanges you have, the more misconceptions you can get rid of,” said Tomea. “It’s been interesting to hear how many hurdles women have [in India], especially leaders. I think I am a bit surprised by how long ago we seem to have dealt with those issues, which still exist in terms of women and equality, but how much further [Ami’s] journey will have to take her to get to a level of equality.”
“I am only in competition with myself. Experiences like this allow me to know my flaws and how I can improve as a person.” Ami is an example of how powerful women can
make changes for future generations.