Virginia Leach is majoring in international relations and women’s and gender studies.

Virginia Leach visits Ellis Island on Drew’s trip to New York City for new students.

October 2016 – Even before arriving at Drew University this fall, first-year student Virginia Leach accomplished something major: speaking at the United Nations.

Leach, a Civic Scholar who’s majoring in international relations and women’s and gender studies, spoke at the U.N.’s biannual Youth Assembly as a representative of the National Society of High School Scholars, an organization she joined as a junior in high school. In an interview with, Leach describesthe U.N. experience, why she chose Drew and her career goals.

What did you speak about at the Youth Assembly?

Gender equality, education for girls and how the National Society handles those two combined. I also talked about my experience with NSHSS.

What did you learn from this trip?

It was really interesting hearing about the internal/external conflicts of other countries from the delegates. I was hearing some feisty arguments. I was surprised by that, because in the U.S. our issues are quite domestic—a lot of the internal turmoil we face is not external. Other countries’ internal turmoil looks very different than ours.

What else have you done with NSHSS?

She's also a Civic Scholar.
She’s also a Civic Scholar.

The other big adventure was going to Stockholm, Sweden with them during Nobel Week to study the Nobel Prizes my junior year. I was a first-year member and I saw a list of scholarships they put up on their website. My mom encouraged me to apply, and less than a month before the trip, I got the call. I was like, “Oh my gosh!” I was ecstatic.

What was that experience like?

It wasn’t so much in-class study; it was more going to the seminars and listening to the prize winners—past and present. It was a great experience, but it also opened my eyes tointernational homelessness. You’re in the capital of such an important event in history and there are homeless immigrants sitting right outside.

That definitely kick-started my homelessness research when I got back from Sweden. Taking the Civic Engagement Workshop and seminar on community service here at Drew have helped me flesh out these ideas.

Why did you choose to study at Drew?

Between April and May, when I still hadn’t made up my mind, it came down to which school would offer me the best educational support. I need all the support and resources I can get—not only as a first-year student, but as a first generation college student. It also came down to liking the environment here. My high school was very small—about 300 students—and I knew everyone, but I didn’t know anyone at Drew except a senior classmate and a sophomore here.

Do you have a specific career path in mind?

Future plans include attending graduate school and developing an educational plan for schools abroad.
Future plans include attending graduate school and developing an educational plan for schools abroad.

My idea is to take to the U.N. the concept of an educational plan so people can open up their own schools—in their own country, in their own town or their own village. I’m building an educational plan so that principals can follow it based on their own curriculum. To develop my idea, I plan on going to grad school. I also want to open up my own girls’ school here in the U.S. and have it be a sister school to the other institutions abroad.

That’s a big dream.

It’s a very simple idea, but enacting it is very complicated. You need math teachers, you need science teachers, you need people who are educated and can teach the subjects you want in your classroom. You also need the money from the U.N. to build your school and maybe provide protection from internal turmoil. The idea is clear-cut, but it takes more people than just me to get the project started.