Kesha Ram, a 2004 graduate of Santa Monica High School, was elected last week to the Vermont House of Representatives. At 22, she becomes one of the youngest state legislators in the country.
Born and raised in Santa Monica, Kesha was supported by many political and community leaders in Vermont in her bid for the state legislature, including former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin and the state chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party, Ian Carleton. As her website states, “As a young woman with a father from India and a mother from Illinois, Kesha is changing the face of politics in this historic year for Democrats.”
Though she expressed herself on many issues, a principal focus of her campaign was environmental justice – “insuring that everyone has equal protection under environmental protection laws,” in her words, so that the poor are not burdened with a greater share of pollution and threats to environmental health.
At Samohi, Keesha was one of three students who traveled with a guidance counselor to Mumbai, India in January 2004 to attend the World Social Forum, “the largest environmental and social justice forum in the world,” as she describes it. At the Forum, she made a documentary featuring delegates from around the world and brought it back to Santa Monica.
After her electoral victory last week, City Councilmember Kevin McKeown said, “We knew Kesha was a remarkable young woman when she organized the Samohi trip to the World Social Forum, and came to the City Council for help in funding it. Her passionate commitment to sharing her new understanding of global social justice was proven after Mumbai when she did a series of presentations to Santa Monica community groups. As pleased as I am to celebrate Kesha’s victory in Vermont last Tuesday, I can’t say I’m surprised by her deserved success.”
After graduating from Samohi, Kesha passed up full scholarships to a number of private New England colleges and the prestigious International Leader of Tomorrow Award at the University of British Columbia because she “fell in love” with the University of Vermont campus and the town of Burlington. At UVM, as it is called (“Universitas Viridis Montis, Latin for University of the Green Mountains,” she explains), Kesha was elected Student Government Association president and carried a double major in Natural Resource Planning and Political Science.
Upon graduation in May of this year, she decided to stay in Burlington and began teaching pre-school while she campaigned for the legislature. Vermont’s is a “citizens’ legislature” (i.e., a part-time job), and Kesha is considering a career in “education, nonprofits, or work at UVM.” The district she will represent includes the university and what she describes as “a vibrant, diverse area” near the campus. “Sixty percent of the residents are between 18 and 25 years old,” she notes.
As McKeown puts it, “Our school district and our whole Santa Monica community can be very proud of what an excellent education in a politically participatory city makes possible for our young people. My heartfelt congratulations to Kesha Ram.”