Davita Louie loves hiking, dancing, her adorable dog Harley Quinn, and her work with Reading Partners, which helps enhance the reading skills of young people in DC. We caught up with her to learn more about her job, her hobbies, and the hypothetical book that we hope she writes someday.
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GatherDC: Tell me about where you grew up and what brought you to the DC area.
Davita: I grew up in central New Jersey. I went to graduate school in order to have a career that would allow me to live abroad, but then switched my major in the middle of the program. That ended up with me getting a job in DC instead. I’ve been in DC now for six years and I love it.
It took me a while to admit, but I actually like living in DC better than living in New York City. I love that it’s a “small” city, so it’s really easy to build community here. You are always running into people you know and it has all the things I like – easy access to hiking, great venues for live music, opportunities for dancing, like bachata socials and hip hop classes, and so many opportunities for serving the community.
My job as the External Relations Director at Reading Partners is a big reason I am still here. I used to be a consultant and volunteer for the organization before joining full time. I love this job and my team. Literacy is such an important skill needed to succeed in all areas of life. I am passionate about this work and tutor with Reading Partners as a volunteer myself.
GatherDC: Tell us a little bit more about your job at Reading Partners.
Davita: I’m the external relations director, so I run both the development team and the community engagement team. I enjoy this work because it is so meaningful and I truly believe in our community volunteers’ abilities to empower students. Our evidence-based curriculum is proven and effective and we were able to turn into a virtual program, Reading Partners Connects, when the pandemic hit. We center our students and their families in the work that we do and are very intentional about meeting our students where they are in their learning journey. I also have the best team that I am so grateful to work with!
And, quick plug! If any of your readers are interested in making a real difference as a volunteer, we’re currently accepting applicants for volunteers from the community or by becoming an Americorps member through Reading Partners!
GatherDC: After a long day, how do you wind down?
Davita: I like to take my dog for a long walk and lay in the park and read. I also like to go out and dance bachata.
GatherDC: If you could change one thing about DC, what would it be?
If I could change anything it would be the emphasis on leading with status and job and where you went to school. Frankly, that is so boring and there are so many more interesting things about people.
GatherDC: What would be your dream day in DC from start to finish?
Davita: My ideal day is waking up early to train at Physicality, a visit to Lincoln Park with my dog to read a book, a meet up with good friends, and ending the day with a show at 9:30 Club or a dance class at Urban Artistry. Alternatively, I love spending a full day out in Shenandoah National Park hiking with my pup.
GatherDC: Tell me more about your dog.
Davita: Harley Quinn! My teddy bear dog (half shih tzu, half bichon frise), she’s ten pounds and just turned ten this past May! I’ve had her since she was three months old and three pounds. She loves playing fetch, especially with toys that squeak. To everyone’s surprise, because she is a small dog, Harley is an incredible off-leash hiker and has done hikes as long as sixteen miles!
GatherDC: What’s your favorite thing you’ve done this year?
Davita: I hiked the stratovolcano Acetenago in Guatemala where you camp at the peak above the clouds and have a front row view of the active volcano Fuego erupting all night long!
GatherDC: If you were an author, what kind of book would you write? Bonus points if you already have a title.
Davita: I would write a children’s book about being multi-racial. Growing up I had many books on my shelves about both my Chinese and Jewish cultures, but none that represented my own blended family. The book would include all of my family’s unique traditions that combine our cultures. The title would probably be some sort of word play like, “Lo Mein Amen.”
GatherDC: How do you find yourself connecting with your Jewish identity?
Davita: Through acts of service, like volunteering with and working for Reading Partners.
GatherDC: Do you have any Jewish role models?
My grandma is definitely one of my role models. Not only was she my best friend, she also really took advantage of life. She always had a ton of friends and activities going on. Even after she retired, she worked as a babysitter at the local JCC and was eventually promoted to running the operation. She also learned how to drive as a senior after my grandfather passed away! How badass! She was pretty liberal for her generation and was always open to hearing my thoughts and open to changing her opinion after learning more about an issue.
My mother is also one of my role models. She has a super generous and kind spirit. She shows up 100% for her children, and for others. She is a lot of fun and a practical joker and the kind of parent that really embarrassed me growing up but all of my friends loved and still love her. I will not be upset if I “become my mother.”
GatherDC: With the High Holidays coming up, do you have a favorite tradition?
Davita: My father is Chinese and we always find ways to mix our Chinese and Jewish cultures, so on Yom Kippur we break fast at a Chinese buffet.
GatherDC: Outside of the Chinese buffet, do you have a favorite High Holiday food?
Davita: Sweet noodle kugel!
GatherDC: When Jews of DC Gather…
Davita: …we do the same things that anybody else does when they gather!
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