Long before Santa Monica native Kesha Ram started campaigning to be second in command in the state of Vermont, she ran for student council president at Roosevelt Elementary School.

It was a race against three boys, she remembered, and she won.

“It was a do-or-die moment,” she said. “I took it quite seriously.”

Ram took the position seriously too. She recalled writing speeches on index cards, speaking in front of the local Board of Education and launching the Teddy Tribune student newspaper on campus.

It was the first elected office in a political career that has blossomed since her primary education days. Ram, 29, is a candidate to be Vermont’s next lieutenant governor.

Local supporters Paul Song and Lisa Ling are hosting a fundraiser for Ram in Santa Monica on March 19, less than six months before the Aug. 9 election. Expected attendees at the fundraiser include State Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and City Council members Kevin McKeown and Sue Himmelrich as well as U.S.-Japan Council president Irene Hirano Inouye.

Ram, who has served in the Vermont Legislature for nearly eight years, said her experiences as a preschool teacher, social worker and government official have motivated her to try to help others.

“Whether it’s for Vermonters or other Americans, it’s hard to find a pathway into the middle class,” she said. “Families struggle to afford child care and health care. We’re struggling to retain and attract our next generation. … I find myself looking at my peer group and colleagues and seeing the struggle to be able to give their children access to quality early education, the struggle to pay off student debt or pay off a loan. That’s what I intend to focus on.”

Growing up, Ram said, her mother gave her biographies about women and people of color who changed the world.

A 2004 graduate of Santa Monica High School, Ram initially thought she would effect change through activism. She started a recycling program at Samohi, interned with the Coalition for Clean Air and supported hotel workers alongside civil rights leader Dolores Huerta.

But she started to view elected office as a channel for activism.

“What it means to be involved in politics is to protest and use my voice,” she said. “I had this strong sense that people had fought and died and lost opportunities for me to have the right to vote and participate in the democratic process. So I want use my voice to make others voices’ heard as well.”

While attending the University of Vermont, Ram fell in love with the Green Mountain State. She also met a member of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign staff and was asked to introduce him at a campus event.

“Bernie gave me my first big break,” Ram said, adding that she voted for Sanders in his state’s Democratic presidential primary earlier this month. “I owe him quite a bit for that.”

Ram, who ran for a seat in her state’s House of Representatives when she was 21, said she feels her relative youth in U.S. government is an asset.

“One of the reasons I’m running is because I have the energy to be a connector-in-chief, to help Vermonters come together to rise to the challenges,” she said. “I still feel energized at the end of the day.”