Leigh Mante was born in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines, and immigrated to Virginia Beach, Virginia when she was three years old. Her interests in global development issues began at Princess Anne High School where she studied in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and served as a student educator on a medical mission in Santa Cruz, Bolivia with Operation Smile, a global organization seeking to increase access to safe surgical care.
Leigh studied Global Public Health and Mathematical Statistics and minored in Global Sustainability at the University of Virginia. After her first year, she returned to the Philippines as a Food Security and Nutrition Intern for the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction where she researched nutrition-sensitive programming in Southeast Asia and participated in bio-intensive gardening workshops with local farmers. Leigh was also an undergraduate research assistant for two years at UVA, an Education Programs Intern for Operation Smile, and an Enterprise Support Systems Intern for SEWA Bharat. As a UVA Center for Global Health Equity Scholar, Leigh worked within a team to support Visionary Minds, a community-based youth group in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa, in overcoming barriers related to educational access. Her experiences with various NGOs expanded her interests in multi-dimensional development practices aiming to improve access to healthcare and education, promote gender equity, and mitigate environmental concerns.
While completing her fourth year, Leigh worked at the United States Environmental Protection Agency: Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention- Data Gathering and Analysis Division. She coded a methodology that identifies communities in the United States who may be disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals released from facilities.
Leigh looks forward to joining the Payne Fellow community and plans to pursue a masters degree in International Development with an analytical focus in order to prepare for a career as a USAID Program/Project Development Officer. In her free time, Leigh enjoys golden hour at the beach, thrifting, staying active, listening to Original Pilipino Music (OPM), and adventuring with friends.