Washington, DC — PAAIA’s Civic Leadership Program is thrilled to announce our Spring 2024 cohort of five Pezeshkan Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) fellows: Bahar Babagoli, Ava Etemadi, Melody Mashouf, Leila Pearson, and Persia Zurita.
CHIP is one of the youth leadership initiatives that falls under the umbrella of our Civic Leadership Program. It provides Iranian American college students or recent graduates with the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill and learn firsthand about our nation’s political processes. PAAIA offers students both financial support during their internship experiences as well as mentorship support from Iranian Americans involved in public service careers.
Through the support of our generous donors in 2023 (especially those of you who contributed to our Giving Tuesday campaign), we are able to offer fellowships to five incredible CHIP candidates this spring! These young women make up the largest cohort we’ve had to date!
MEET THE SPRING FELLOWS:
Office of U.S. Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-47)
A junior at Chapman University’s Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, Bahar Babagoli is majoring in psychology with a minor in political science. She is the founder of ChaiTalk, a popular online discussion platform that fosters community among Iranian American students. ChaiTalk holds monthly virtually discussions where young Iranian Americans can engage with relevant topics such as the Woman, Life, Freedom movement, civic engagement, generational differences, mental health, and body image. Babagoli is also involved with the Iranian American Women Foundation and Chapman University’s Iranian Student Cultural Organization. This semester, she will be interning with the office of Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-47).
“I am very thankful for the opportunity to be a CHIP fellow this semester,” said Babagoli. “Working with Congresswoman Porter excites me as I look forward to learning more about policymaking, specifically addressing issues in regard to healthcare and mental health resources.”
Office of U.S. Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49)
Ava Etemadi is a sophomore at George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. She was awarded the Presidential Academic Scholarship upon enrollment and is majoring in political science, with interests in environmental policy and foreign affairs. Etemadi is an opinion writer for the GW Hatchet Newspaper where she has educated her peers about the protests in Iran. She formerly served as the Head Copy Editor for the Dolphin Dispatch Newspaper. Currently, Etemadi serves as the Events Coordinator for GW’s Cultural Society of Iranzamin, a social and cultural organization that aims to promote and educate people about Iranian culture. In Spring 2024, she will be interning with the office of Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49).
“I’m excited for the CHIP fellowship since I grew up not seeing many Iranian Americans represented in government and national politics,” said Etemadi. “Learning about the experience of Iranian American policymakers will be an inspiring experience for me and I can’t wait to hear their advice!”
Office of U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (CA-32)
Melody Mashouf is a sophomore at Santa Monica College, majoring in political science and minoring in political economy. She has a passion for law, foreign policy, global conflict de-escalation, and immigration. An active member of the Iranian Students of California, Mashouf remains connected to her Iranian heritage and is looking forward to representing our community on Capitol Hill. In 2023, Mashouf completed an internship with Massachusetts’ 12th Suffolk State House District Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley where she had the opportunity to experience the legislative process at the state level. This spring, Mashouf will get the chance to participate at the federal level as she interns with the Office of Congressman Brad Sherman (CA-32).
“I am thrilled to begin delving into my work as an intern and representing my heritage as a CHIP fellow,” said Mashouf. “It is an honor to both expand my toolkit as a student and professional while being a member of a team dedicated to solving problems on a large scale. I strongly believe that one person can be the start of a great change, and I look forward to pursuing this journey on Capitol Hill.”
Office of U.S. Senator Mark Kelly (AZ)
Leila Pearson is a junior at American University, double majoring in International Studies and Communications. Starting her political activism at a young age, Pearson has been involved with several political campaigns since high school, including Will Haskell for Connecticut State Senator (2018), Jim Himes for Congress (2018), Mark Kelly for Senate (2020), and Pete Buttigieg for President (2020). A former PAAIA CHIP Fellow (Spring 2022), Pearson previously interned with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) where she formed bonds with other interns, learned the important role constituents play in policymaking, and witnessed history-in-the-making firsthand. This spring, Pearson wants to deepen her senatorial knowledge and continue to pursue her policy passions by interning with Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ).
“I am so excited and grateful to be back on the Hill this Spring,” said Pearson. “My previous internship truly opened my eyes to the importance of public policy and the role of the Senate in our country. I can’t thank PAAIA enough for creating such a welcoming community of inspirational leaders for me to learn from.”
Office of U.S. Senator Mark Warner (VA)
Persia Zurita is a sophomore at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She matches her international affairs major with a concentration in security policy and minors in political science and organizational sciences. On campus, she serves as the Deputy Secretary for Faith and Religious Justice at the Student Association Executive Branch. A first-generation Iranian American, Zurita’s desire to solve international conflicts peacefully and become a representative figure for other Iranian Americans has led her to participate in PAAIA’s youth programs. Previously, she interned in the Dual Language Immersion Program at the Arlington Public Schools Office of English Learners through our Ansari Fellowship. This semester, she will be interning with the Office of Senator Mark Warner (VA) as a CHIP Fellow.
“I’m excited to engage in a community of like-minded Iranian American college students and embark on the CHIP fellow journey together! There’s so much to learn and relate from one another,” Zurita said. “I’m looking forward to learning about the inner workings of Congressional offices and how every single task can contribute to serving the constituents and the country. I’m also excited to work with fellow interns and get a glimpse of how our generation will work to enhance policymaking strategies.”
A heartfelt congratulations to our Spring 2024 CHIP cohort! As part of our largest cohort yet, the Spring 2024 CHIP fellows are poised to make a lasting impact. Explore more about CHIP and discover additional civic engagement opportunities for Iranian American young professionals at IACivicLeaders.org.