Fellow: Erika Ninoyu
Member: Representative Grace Meng (NY-06)
Tasks in Member’s Office
I am thrilled to become a member of Rep. Grace Meng’s legislative team as their APAICS Congressional Fellow.
Anyone who walks into our office can see that Rep. Meng values diversity on all levels and I am grateful that she has created a pathway for someone like me — a Japanese, female, musician-educator, and advocate — to engage in policy making. APAICS has a profound presence in Rep. Meng’s office. Our LC was previously an APAICS intern, and my supervisor and fantastic LD is an APAICS alumni! Having taken on APAICS fellows in the past, Rep. Meng’s staff is tremendously patient and supportive.
I am humbled to know that they really care about my professional and personal growth, and I look forward to learning as much as I can, as quickly as possible, so I can become an effective member of the team. Choosing to be here was quite a gamble. After working at the local level to advocate for our youth and communities as a teacher and community leader for ten years, I realized that I had a choice. I could either continue to fight for changes at the ground level, or attempt to create systemic changes that might influence communities beyond my own. Inspired to pivot my life trajectory, I obtained a masters in education policy and here I am!
Although I find it strange to not be in a classroom full of thirty middle schoolers and waving my baton or being surrounded by the cascading mountains of Alaska, going to work each morning is thrilling. I am so grateful to work in an office that has entrusted me with the opportunity to create and support policies that I am most passionate about, including education, climate action, AAPI issues, animal rights, and more. Whether I am taking meetings, writing talking points, writing a dear colleague letter, or submitting a bill proposal, my heart palpitates with the excitement of the potential impact of our work. I know the process to enact policy change is long and I have so much to learn, but I am confident that I have made the right decision to be here.
Favorite memories (so far!) in DC
There is so much to love in DC! DC is the place to be for a frugal-minded person like me. I am taking advantage of the free concerts, museums, receptions and most importantly, food. In celebration of the Kennedy Performing Arts Center’s new expansion, I visited the Reach during their two-week festival. I attended a “Meet the Chef” event, where the mastermind behind the cafeterias at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian shared his story of becoming a chef. He is young and on a mission to change our conception of food, believing that the food we serve and eat should be a reflection of our culture. At the end of the session, he shared banh mi-esque sandwiches with homemade spam and banana ketchup. Yum!
Morning – I start every morning with a cup of pour over coffee, made with a simple Vietnamese coffee maker, while watching Judy Woodruff on PBS.
Afternoon – Each day is different. My days will be filled with a combination of meetings, briefings, coffees, talking with CRS, research, pushing out recommendations, writing letters, memos, dear colleagues, bill proposals, talking points, emails, and more.
Night – As a member of the U.S.-Japan Council, Japanese American Citizens League, advisor for the Japan Alaska Association, and supporting the early stages of a start-up, much of my free time is allocated to my “non-work” duties. On Wednesdays, I venture up to Takoma Park on the Red Line, to play taiko drums, and on Sundays, I go to Meridian Park to play my djembe.