The New American Leaders Project (NALP) is Sayu’s latest organizational endeavor. NALP reflects Sayu’s concern about the representation gap between our country’s leadership and its demographics. The organization’s core program is a signature training conceived by Sayu, to prepare first- and second-generation immigrants for the challenges and opportunities they face in becoming civic leaders.

As New York City’s first Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs, Sayu worked with immigrant advocates to pass the City’s earliest legislation to protect the rights of domestic workers and to increase access to translation and interpretation services. She also championed the establishment of the City’s first Immigrant History Week, which is now institutionalized as Immigrant Heritage Week and celebrated widely by City residents and institutions.

South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!), currently in its 15th year, remains the nation’s only secular youth organization dedicated to empowering South Asian and Indo-Caribbean youth. Sayu started the organization in 1996, to provide resources and programming for immigrant youth whose parents were ill-equipped to offer the social capital needed for academic success, civic engagement and social integration in Queens.

Sayu is on the board of The AfterSchool Corporation and The National Immigration Forum, which reflect her commitment to two of the issues she has spent most of her professional life working on—youth development and immigrant integration. On both boards, she brings content expertise, hands-on experience as an Executive Director, and perspectives as a fundraiser and grantmaker.

Until 2010, her board commitments included the New York Foundation and the New York Women’s Foundation, both of which make grants to organizations like SAYA!, community groups that help make New York City livable, vibrant and welcoming.

While at SAYA! and serving as Commissioner, she also served on the boards of the New York Immigration Coalition and the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF), organizations whose work to level the playing field for Asian American and immigrant communities she still supports.


Spring for Reform Award (2013)
Presented by Citizens Union of New York City

BMW Foundation Young Leaders Award (2013)
Presented by the BMW Foundation Young Leaders

Fearless Changemaker (2012)
Presented by the Case Foundation

Caring for Children Award (2002)
Presented by the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families

Helen La Kelly Hunt Women’s Neighborhood Leadership Award (2001)
Presented by the New York Women’s Foundation to two women annually

Long Walk to Justice (2001)
Presented by Community Works to nine youth activists continuing the civil rights struggle

Asian American Leadership Award (2001)
Presented by City Comptroller Alan C. Hevesi to Asian American community leaders

Union Square Award (2000)
Presented by the Fund for the City of New York, to grassroots activists in the city.