Sasha Wijeyeratne '12

Sasha Wijeyeratne

Hometown: La Verne, CA
High School: Vivian Webb School
Major: Biology
Possible Career: Veterinarian

Sasha is involved in a variety of social justice and activism clubs at Swarthmore and is a varsity volleyball and softball player. She spent a summer serving as a volunteer at a Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) program in Bolivia. Sasha was placed with a prison aid and reform organization organization in the city of Cochabamba. She also took time to travel throughout Bolivia after the experience.

In Her Own Words

What has been the most valuable Evans Scholars program experience for you?

Sasha
Bolivia
Bolivia

"My most valuable Evans experience took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Through the Evans Scholarship, I was able to volunteer with the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD). They placed me with Ayni Ruway, an NGO that worked in Cochabamba's prison system. The prison system in Bolivia is different from that of the U.S. People in prison need to pay for their own basic necessities — food, shelter, etc. — in order to survive; nothing is given to them. Those in prison, especially men, frequently bring their families with them, compounding this struggle for basic resources. My job with Ayni Ruway came directly from the expressed needs of those in prison — I worked with other interns to create a catalog and a storefront for prisoners to sell products as a source of income. Though I left the organization before seeing either of these projects to completion, this was an amazing experience for many reasons. First and foremost, it was fulfilling to be able to address a need expressed by those in prison, who recognized that my work as an ally was actually helpful to them. I also had a wonderful host family with whom I have kept in touch. I spent many nights eating, talking, playing cards, and relaxing with them. Lastly, I got to travel around Bolivia and Peru for about a week after my program ended, exploring some of the natural beauty of these countries while also getting practice speaking Spanish."

What was the most transformative class you have taken?

"The most transformative class I have had at Swarthmore is one that I am currently taking, called History 7B: African American People from 1865 to the Present. The class is a survey of the African American experience from emancipation to the present day. We are learning history that is often either ignored or misrepresented. The class is transformative because it teaches this often silent history, explicitly providing students with some of the knowledge to break down present-day stereotypes and political constructions that blame people of African descent for many of the difficulties faced by poor, working-class, black people, often in the inner city. The class actively seeks to disrupt conflations of blackness and criminality, pathology, and dysfunction by highlighting the historical legacy of black poverty, discrimination, and oppression begun in slavery."

What subjects do you want to explore deeply?

"I am hoping to study sociology and anthropology, history, and little bit of educational studies here at Swarthmore. I think sociology/anthropology and history are a powerful combination; while sociology focuses on the implications of injustices in the present moment, history provides the background necessary to understand inequalities of the present as constructed and maintained by dominant groups in the past. In my mind, educational inequality fits into this theoretical framework as both a tool and a result — the racialization and class-based inequities reflected in current patterns and institutions of education are the result of histories of oppression while also continuing the lack of access to education as a path towards wealth that marginalized communities continue to face."

What impact do you want to have on the world?

"I'm not sure exactly what impact I want to have on the world — that's a big question. Both while in college and after, I hope to work for small/local organizations that do work around issues of social justice. I am committed to a vision of a more equitable and just world for all communities and people — but as of right now, I'm not quite sure what role I will play in seeing that vision through."