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Kesha Ram: Breaking Barriers As A Leader

3 years ago / by Bhargavi Kulkarni

From a young age, Kesha Ram knew the importance of hard work and the value of giving back to the community. She chose to direct those lessons, passion and energy into political work. Now Ram is on her way to become the first woman of color to serve in the Vermont Senate. In the state’s most hotly contested Chittenden District Senate race during the Democratic primary, Ram was second only behind incumbent Ginny Lyons in total votes earned. Lyons received 21,187 votes and Ram earned 20,171. Ram’s platform is focused on championing affordable homeownership, creating green jobs, ensuring paid family leave and expanding early and higher education opportunities, according to her website.

Kesha RamA preschool teacher at the Burlington Children’s Space, Kesha Ram works as a consultant for towns, school districts, and organizations seeking to improve equity and inclusion in their organizations and policies.

Born to a father who immigrated to the U.S. from India and a Jewish mother born-and-raised in Illinois, Ram grew up in the Los Angeles area. Her parents met while they attended UCLA, and they later started an Irish pub, McGinty’s Irish Pub. It was there that the value of hard work was instilled in Ram. Those values, coupled with ambition, is what has taken Ram into a career of service and leadership. “As a daughter of a Punjabi from India, I remember my math classes,” she said in a recent webinar. “I try to listen and follow up. Ninety percent of what we communicate is through body language. I strive to make people comfortable.”

Her first brush with politics came in fifth grade when she was first elected as student body president of her elementary school in Los Angeles. Her activism continued through school and college. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in natural Resources Planning and a Bachelor’s of Arts in political science. While in school, she was a member of Slade, a student-run ecological cooperative.

Although an activist on campus, she did not envision running for political office.
It was in 2006 that Ram got her start in politics when introducing Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama at Ira Allen Chapel in Burlington. Then Senator Barack Obama encouraged her to run for office, and two years later they shared a ballot.

When Kesha Ram was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives in 2008, she became the first person of color to represent Burlington and then the youngest ever to be elected to State Assembly – at the age of 21. During her time in the legislature, from 2008 to 2016, Ram served on several committees, including Ways and Means; Housing and Military Affairs; and as vice chair of Natural Resources and Energy.

Outside the legislature, Ram has dedicated her career to improving civic engagement opportunities for Vermonters and helping vulnerable populations access needed services. Kesha also serves on the boards of the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. Previously, Ram was the civic engagement specialist for Burlington, empowering residents to engage in city governance. She was also the legal advocacy director for Steps to End Domestic Violence, where she supported victims of violence in the courtroom and throughout family and criminal legal proceedings.