When many of her peers were concentrating on simply getting through their senior year of college, Kesha Ram was campaigning for political office. An alumna of Santa Monica High, Ram headed for more easterly environs upon high school graduation, choosing to tackle her college career at the University of Vermont. After finishing her undergraduate degree this year, the 22-year-old Ram was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives, becoming the youngest representative from that state.
Earlier this month, Ram had a homecoming of sorts when she made a series of appearances at several Santa Monica public schools. She spoke to students at Roosevelt Elementary, Samohi, Franklin Elementary, and Lincoln Middle School. Ram, who in addition to attending Santa Monica High, also went to Roosevelt and Lincoln, likened the local schools tour to a case of déjà vu.
“I can’t think of anything more inspiring that to go back and talk to students at schools I used to attend,” Ram said. “It was so funny and heartwarming, because I recognized some of the students from my days as a camp counselor at the Santa Monica YMCA.”
Ram went on to say that some of her former teachers are still working in the Santa Monica School System, including Miss Donohoe, her first grade teacher.
“She changed my life, as did so many teachers in Santa Monica,” Ram said. “I could read a little better than some of my classmates in first grade, so she asked me to help other students read…it was my first experience with public service.”
Ram, whose Vermont District includes Burlington’s Hill Section, Old North End, and the University of Vermont area, centered her Santa Monica school lectures on various subjects, including leadership and a call to political action.
“I wanted to let them know why it’s important for young people to vote and take part in the government,” Ram said. “When I told the students at Roosevelt that I used to be on the student council there, they went wild. I think it’s important for them to know that they can get involved and be heard at a young age.”
And there’s proof that Ram is not just someone who talks the talk. She was politically active from a young age, asking questions and seeking answers from the start. While a student at Samohi, she helped to pass legislation banning carcinogenic chemicals from dry cleaning, started a school recycling program, and led a delegation of students to India for the World Social Forum. In her senior year at University of Vermont, she was elected Student Government Association President, only the seventh woman and first person of color to fulfill that office. As president she represented nearly 10,000 students, learning how to articulate their values and concerns effectively.
“It was sort of like being mayor of a small town,” Ram said. “So I decided to use that experience in my run for state representative.” While campaigning, Ram knocked on five thousand doors twice, getting to know her constituents and asking for their votes.
“I wanted to run because young people are leaving Vermont right now. As they graduate from University of Vermont, students are seeking jobs elsewhere,” Ram said.
In her new post, Ram intends to focus on education, economic development and the climate crisis. She wants to create green jobs in Vermont and more affordable housing.
Ram will spend the rest of the holiday season in Southern California, then head back to Vermont. Visiting schools in her hometown, she said, served as a nice reminder of why she got into politics. “It was nice to remember that I was really a part of this community,” Ram said.