Haley Yasunaga

We all have that one student in our classes that somehow knows the answer to everything and can diffuse any high-tension debate, all in an incredibly educated manner. If you’ve been lucky enough to have a class with Haley Yasunaga, standing senior, you’ve seen this in action. Yasunaga is a third year student majoring in Political Science with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies AND is graduating early. She grew up in Palos Verdes, CA and has always been an overachiever, striving to define her own sense of success and to make her world a better environment for others to learn and grow.

At four years old Yasunaga watched her very first election. She said, “I wasn’t exactly processing what was going on. I was ‘running’ laps around the living room with a family friend. I ran laps every time Al Gore won a state and my friend ran laps every time George W. Bush won one.” This may have been the start to her affinity for politics because from then on, anytime there was an election, she was fully engrossed.

As she grew older, Yasunaga became more and more involved. She participated in Speech and Debate from seventh grade through tenth and in MUN (Model United Nations) from ninth grade onward. She is currently still involved in MUN at Santa Clara University as part of the leadership team. Although these activities aren’t politically geared per se, they gave her practice in public speaking, as well as participating and presenting the research that politicians often have to immerse themselves in.

At the beginning of her third year here at SCU, Yasunaga knew she wanted to leave her mark on the school in a powerful way. Inspired by her friend who began a chapter at USC, Yasunaga decided to start a chapter of IGNITE here at SCU. IGNITE is a national organization promoting “Political power in every young woman.” Its mission is to empower and inspire young women across the nation to run for political office, to become more politically inclined, and to support other young women. Yasunaga became enamored with this organization and spearheaded the start of SCU’s chapter, while encouraging fellow students to get involved.

Currently IGNITE at SCU is in its beginning stages with 21 members and counting. The club meets weekly to discuss things such as our current political climate, ways to positively promote oneself in the workforce and much more. IGNITE is hoping to have professor panels of strong SCU female role models, LinkedIn workshops and other events promoting the organization’s mission. Additionally, members of the SCU IGNITE team have the opportunity to meet up with women from other IGNITE colleges to learn more about the program and about what we can do to improve our female presence in the government.

Although Yasunaga is still in college, she has become a sought-after commodity. Members of the national offices of IGNITE have reached out to her to speak on behalf of young women in the political arena. She has had the opportunity to interview the mayor of East Palo Alto Donna Rutherford, speak to a group of VISA employees, and was interviewed at the LinkedIn headquarters in San Francisco for an IGNITE Mobilization Breakfast. Yasunaga stated that her favorite part of IGNITE is that it “reaches out to young women in particular and encourages them to be politically ambitious. So much of our life trajectory is affected by the experiences we have as young people and by negating the gender stereotype that women can’t be leaders, or aren’t qualified to hold office, etc. We are quite possibly changing the perspective that they will use to look upon the rest of their life experiences.”

At the LinkedIn Mobilization Breakfast, Yasunaga was lucky enough to meet and work with Hillary Ronen (San Francisco City Supervisor), Rosie Rios (43rd U.S. Treasurer), and Christina Garcia (California State Assembly member), furthering her passion for political involvement and aiding in her vision of her future in politics.

Over this past summer, Yasunga interned for Congressman Alan Lowenthal of California’s 47th district. She was able to experience the behind-the-scenes aspect of government and was inspired by the Congressman to proceed with a career in the political arena. Looking back on her summer, Yasunaga stated, “I was incredibly fortunate in that Congressman Lowenthal is the epitome of what an elected official should be. He cares about his community endlessly, truly takes into consideration the opinions of his constituents, is incredibly friendly, and is very intelligent. He was a great example of what a politician can do for their community.”

At such a young age, Yasunaga has already become so involved in politics, community service, and the fight for change, showing her peers that anything is possible if you are willing to fight for it. Her strong moral character, both in and out of the workplace, is incredibly inspiring. She will be a true voice and a true leader for young women to look up to in the future.