BOSTON— Meena Bharath is Chair of Massachusetts Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission. Recently, she was named among Boston’s most influential Asian American Pacific Islanders of 2023
Education and impact of sound education in the lives of young people and society is of deep interest to her. She has served on local, regional and state level educational bodies. She is a strong advocate for personalized education plans for all learners, celebrating strengths, building supports, and varied paths to learning.
“Most of my service roles are tied to education and related policy. I believe it to be an opportunity not just a better now, but also a brighter future,” says Ms. Bharat. “The work is challenging, yet most gratifying.”
Ms. Bharat has served in many volunteer capacities including as Chair, DESE’s Gifted & Talented Education Advisory Council; Chair, Hopkinton Public School Committee; Member, Education Committee, Christa McAuliffe Charter School; Member, The Education Cooperative (TEC). Through all these roles, she has had an opportunity to learn, collaborate with many wonderful people, and influenced hearts, minds and policies for better outcomes.
She takes great pride in her contribution in the formation of AAPI Commission’s first Youth Council, which elevates youth voices and promotes civic engagement. She currently works in the financial industry as a Program Manager.
Here is a Q/A with Ms. Bharat, who will honored at the Woman of the Year Awards Gala at Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA, on April 14, 2023. To buy a ticket for the gala, please click here.
INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?
Meena Bharath: I started my community work at Shishubharati in Nashua, under Vani Thilagar, Nikita Shah and Nalinbhai’s guidance, watching them work with utmost dedication and humility for a cause they cared for. That set the course for my community engagement. I learn everyday through my work, enjoy meeting people and gain much satisfaction in contributing back to the community which gives me so much.
INE: What does success and failure mean to you?
MB: Having the luxury to do what you want with your time and energy, meaningful relationships, contributing to a thriving, inclusive world are my measures of success. I prefer the word setback to failure and see it is an important aspect of life and an opportunity to pause, recalibrate and do better.
INE: The one thing you attribute your success to?
MB: Blessings and goodwill – of my elders, people around me, the universe, and most importantly, my mother’s.
INE: To which charitable, community and professional group do you belong and why?
MB: Over the years, many community organizations. Starting with Shishubharati in Nashua, where I taught Telugu and briefly served as the Director of Administration.
I volunteered as a Math tutor to Middle and High School students at Framingham Public Library’s Homework Center. I served on Hopkinton School Committee, including as Chair and through that as a Board Member at the Education Cooperative (TEC) in Walpole, as a member on the Marathon Fund Committee.
I serve as Commissioner on the AAPI Commission of Massachusetts. At the Commission, I have chaired the Education Subcommittee and also served as the Chair of the Commission. I have served as Council Member and Chair at DESE’s Gifted and Talented Education Advisory Council. I have served as a Greeter at Hopkinton’s Senior Center – greeting and building friendships.
Most of my service roles are tied to education and related policy. I believe it to be an opportunity not just a better now, but also a brighter future. The work is challenging, yet most gratifying.
INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field.
MB: During my early years, I saw my father, mother and several other elders like Sumitra Aunty (she was the Nurse Superintendent at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi) go out of their way to help people. There was no ulterior motive. I saw a sense of service, respect and courage in them. While the playing field varied, I saw many other people over the years serve exhibiting similar qualities.
I do my best to embody these qualities in my work. Whether it is the formation of AAPI Commission’s first Youth Council, advocacy for G&T children, for better education models, individual learner plans for all children, for inclusivity in AAPI community. Community work takes time, many hands and hearts and I have been fortunate to have played a role.
INE: Any aptitude/gift or talent that not many people know about you?
MB: I like to bake on weekends. I dabble in art.
INE: What are your hobbies and interest?
MB: I love listening to soulful Hindi songs – old and new.
INE: Your favorite books?
MB: The Road Less Traveled – Dr. M. Scott Peck
INE: Your favorite quotes?
MB: “When you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
INE: The one person you would like to meet and why?
MB: J. Jaya Lalitha and Indira Gandhi in the early 1980’s. I heard of them from my father, especially J. Jayalaitha as a member of Rajya Sabha, her oratory and beautiful handwriting. Indira Gandhi’s assassination and all that followed in Delhi left a deep impact on me as a young kid growing up in Delhi. While I didn’t agree with all of their policies, I admired their ability to lead in an extremely tough political landscape.
INE: Your core value you try to live by?
MB: Apna dharm nibhao. Karm karo, phal ki chinta mat karo.