Perisa Ashar


Perisa is a junior at the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies. She is the co-founder of the international nonprofit STEMinate, which has chapters worldwide, and aims to provide STEM opportunities to underdeveloped communities and engage students locally with the STEM field and its endless possibilities! During the weekends, she hosts Scratch Programming workshops for middle school students to learn how to code their own games and activities. Once a month, Perisa helps lead the Henrico 4H-STEM club workshops. She also volunteers at the Math Science Innovation Center, where she hosts workshops and engages youth to conduct scientific research and participate in science fairs. She has been a Youth Teen Leader for the Richmond Peace Education Center, where she has hosted conflict-resolution workshops and spoken at their annual summit as a featured speaker. Perisa was also recently accepted by the national Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to host a local 7-week fundraiser in Richmond, to raise money for blood cancer research and patients. At school, she has founded the Inspire VA, and is starting the History Day and Sigma Xi research clubs. Some of the clubs and honor societies that Perisa is a part of include: National Honor Society, National French Honor Society, French club, Model UN, Model Congress, and Quizbowl. Perisa has been the social media coordinator and Youth President for the Women of Connections Ministry, which helps children who have recently immigrated to America learn English and core subjects for the SOL exams in Virginia.


Why is learning through play and living a life of creativity important to you?

Learning through play plays a critical role in a child's early development, as it teaches children about communication, develops their motor skills, and helps with problem solving. This fascinating experience is what has shaped me to become a creative inquirer, always questioning new possibilities and soaking in knowledge like a sponge. However, through observing,I have noticed that many people are often tricked with the belief that learning and playing are mutually exclusive, while it is instead the opposite. Playing allows one to obtain a first-hand exposure of engaging with a new or interesting topic. Being a stress-free practice, "learning through playing" has also allowed children to not shy away when asking questions, and thus enables confidence in them. As a designated "Youth President" of the Women of Connections Ministry nonprofit organization, I help children, who have recently immigrated to the United States, with learning the SOL curriculum in core subjects, including English, mathematics, science, and history.

During these classes, I try to customize various teaching methods to each of these bright

students, as I hope to keep them engaged and realize how fun it is to learn something in so many different ways. For example, I would sometimes incorporate more advanced vocabulary with stories incorporating some of their favorite action figures or Disney princesses. At other times, I would draw detailed figures and images of characters in popular video games to help them with fundamental mathematical principles. However, the biggest takeaway that I have learned from volunteering with the Women of Connections Ministry is how fast young children can process or interpret a statement as well as other pieces of information, and subsequently apply them to their lives. As a result, I have always felt compelled to engage with the youth members of my community, and I often utilize this "learning through play process", when either engaging in workshops as a Richmond Peace Project Youth Leader or conducting workshops in affiliation with the Math Science Innovation Center, as I have seen how effective it is in helping young students learn a variety of information.

What are important qualities for leaders to have?

A leader is one who is filled with patience and passion, as she must help her others in her "pack" before herself. She needs to be selfless and open-minded to other ideas.

What qualities do you believe you have and how have you demonstrated leadership?

I believe that I have several of these qualities throughout various forms of leadership. At Maggie Walker, I have demonstrated leadership through various clubs that I have founded: Inspire VA (encourages high school students to register for voting), Sigma Xi (teaches students how participate in science research), and History Day (teaches students how to write scholarly historical papers and participate in the History Day competition). While these clubs seem quite different from each other, the qualities needed to lead them are very similar, as a leader needs to know how to be adaptable in various situations. However, I believe that my nonprofit organization, STEMinate, best displays my leadership qualities. I often host programming workshops, in which I try to engage communication between my students. I also have to make sure that I meet all of their needs and questions, before I move forward with my lesson. Whenever I notice that a student may feel disengaged, I try to ask through-provoking questions or introduce other topics that may interest them. Likewise, I am a Youth Peace Project Leader for the Richmond Peace Education Center (RPEC), in which I help facilitate workshops with students. These workshops require open-mindedness, as they focus on how we can resolve conflicts peacefully, or require us to discuss some of our political beliefs.