Young Leaders Institute

Young Leaders Institute
Cultivate skills. Connect with community. Create change.


“YLI is a place where I found community amongst like-minded South Asians Americans who are passionate about justice.” –Jasveen, The New School, 2016 YLI Fellow

“I felt empowered to create change.  New ideas were forming in my mind on how to involve my campus in the revolution.” –Priya, University of Florida, 2015 YLI Fellow

SAALT’s Young Leaders Institute (YLI) is an opportunity for undergraduate students and other young adults in the U.S. to build leadership skills, connect with activists and mentors, and explore social change strategies around issues that affect South Asian and immigrant communities in the U.S.  The Institute is designed to cultivate skills to deepen knowledge and awareness, strengthen and nurture relationships with diverse communities, and empower young leaders to be agents of change.

The 2016-2017 Young Leaders Institute theme is “Building Immigrant Justice.”  Immigrant justice goes beyond reframing existing policies on immigration to valuing the dignity of all immigrants in this country regardless of their documentation status.  It includes the fair treatment of all immigrants and does not emphasize militarized borders, deportation, or criminalization of some immigrants.  South Asian Americans have significant stake in the immigrant justice movement, especially as immigration policies at all levels are increasingly merging with efforts to racially profile and criminalize immigrants and those perceived to be Muslim.

Announcing our 2016-2017 Young Leaders Institute Cohort!

The 2016 YLI Cohort will focus on
“Building Immigrant Justice” in our communities.

The 2016-2017 YLI cohort will work to elevate the narratives of immigrants impacted by this disturbing trend and those whose interests have not always been reflected in the broader immigrant rights discussion.  Participants will build relationships with campus groups and local organizations to implement a project during their academic year.

Anusha Ravi

Anusha will focus on expanding access to reproductive health to South Asian
women, with a focus on immigrant women.  She hopes to focus on three
specific topics: abortion, birth control, and consent-based sex education.

Gurbani Kaur

Gurbani will focus on expansion of access to adequate and quality healthcare
currently denied to immigrants in order to shift the paradigm of treatment of
immigrants in the United States as machines toward respecting and accepting
them as humans because immigrant health justice is justice.

Isra Munir

Isra believes that the first step to achieving immigrant justice is combating many of the harmful stereotypes that immigrants face. By using the platform #SpeaktoShatter, she hopes to use discussion based “speak out” sessions as well as a HONY-style photo series to lay these stereotypes out in the open and prompt people to look beyond outward appearances.

Jasveen Sarna

Jasveen is creating an art exhibit at the New School that will highlight the stories of people who are immigrants or come from an immigrant background in our community. The New School is an arts heavy institution so this would be a great way to educate the larger community about the issues as well as uplift the voices of those who understand immigrant justice.

Kiran Mehta

Kiran is committed to providing a space in which South Asian American and other immigrant youth can share individual stories to spread awareness about the diversity of our roots. Her goal with this project is to build bridges between our communities and come together to understand our shared experiences through open discussion and public exhibition.

Mallika Sabharwal

Mallika will work to provide culturally sensitive health education and prevention techniques (use of helmet, seat belts, condoms, etc.) through community organizations that provide services for refugees. She will do this by working with community organizations, the local temple, and classmates to distribute multi-lingual materials and classes that empower immigrant to take care of themselves and their health.


Maya will be implementing an asset & needs assessment of the Nepali and Tibetan communities in New York City. She will be phone banking, door knocking and doing in-person outreach at community events. The assessment will be used to identify the core needs of the community and shared with stakeholders.

Nikhil Mandalaparthy

Nikhil will be planning an event to bring his university’s South Asian and Latinx communities together around the shared concern for undocumented immigrant rights. While phone-banking Chicago’s South Asian community to increase voter turnout and support for progressive immigration legislation, they will be fundraising for a local immigrant center’s hotline.

Reena Naik

Reena will be working with the Nepali-Bhutanese community of Pittsburgh to reassess the way refugees are treated in public school systems. She will work with the Bhutanese Students Community Association of Pittsburgh (B.C.A.P.) and the Bhutanese Students Association as well as school leaders to determine better approaches toward refugee students in order to increase academic success and retention levels.

Sarzah Yeasmin

Sarzah is working to coordinate a series of workshops creating campus
awareness on the unique challenges faced by South Asians in the areas of immigration,
workplace, and domesticity. Her project will also facilitate student-labor dialogue on campus through mobilizing youth and communicating with local labor groups.

Tasnia Mir

Tasnia will facilitate increased access to quality language access services for the
diverse South Asian immigrant community in NYC, so as to ensure that non-English speaking residents can still enjoy full access to rights and resources including but not limited to housing, healthcare, and civic engagement.

Vidhaath Sripathi

Vidhaath will be creating a fundraising & awareness campaign for local domestic violence shelters aimed toward South Asian immigrant women. The campaign will be organized at Rutgers University through various Greek organizations and student groups on campus.

Vikrant Garg

Vikrant will be compiling and sharing resources while encouraging community organizing in South Asian immigrant communities (both documented and undocumented). He will be educating students on proper community engagement techniques while also working with student organizations on campus to engage with local and state decision-makers.

Meet past SAALT Young Leaders Institute Cohorts