Raaheela Ahmed, young community leader of Indian and Pakistani descent, is engaged in a range of progressive causes from Black Lives Matter to Campus Vote Project.
A young, first generation Muslim woman of Indian and Pakistani descent who has already broken several stereotypes hopes one day her legacy would take her “straight to the White House.”
“It takes a special kind of person to sustain good, honest work in politics for the long-term,” says Raaheela Ahmed, 26, American-born and raised daughter of an Indian father and Pakistani mother.
Set to be reelected unopposed in the Nov. 3 election to the Prince George’s County Board of Education, District 5, representing over 80,000 people in Maryland, she is “not sure yet!” when she would take her fight “for the right thing” to the next level.
“This work is exhausting – it’s a constant loop of fighting for the right thing while being under-appreciated and underpaid,” Ahmed told the American Bazaar in an email interview.
“For me, success looks like leaving a legacy of young leadership in my wake, that can take the mantle of service and run with it – straight to the White House,” she said.
A lifelong Prince Georgian and product of public schools, Ahmed first ran for office as an 18-year-old underdog and anti-establishment figurehead in 2012.
She lost that election by 3%, only to come back in 2016 with a grassroots victory heaved out of two door to door campaigns “to better understand the needs of the community.”
Campus Vote Project
Besides her job as board member, Ahmed works as Deputy Director of Campus Vote Project, where she manages the national team of state organizers that focus on institutionalizing voting on college campuses “nationally, and ensure we are moving each state to a bigger and brighter democracy.”
Ahmed, who is also a trainer with the Progressive Governance Academy said, “We work with over 250 colleges across the US to develop sustainable, long-term civic engagement plans that focus on getting students to vote.”
“This semester, we have 310 paid student fellows that are getting out the vote on their college campuses, and another 100+ recruiting poll workers.”
“We emphasize working with historically Black colleges and universities, as well as community colleges,” said a passionate supporter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Black Lives Matter
Outlining her support for BLM, rekindled by the May death of George Floyd, a Black man under the knee of a White police officer, she says, “Police violence, brutality and murder is everywhere in the US, and it is not right.”
“Black people are dying at the hands of racist individuals, through systems that have historically oppressed them for generations,” Ahmed said.
“Black people, and their decades of advocacy for their human rights,” she noted, “have paved the way for countless marginalized communities to get theirs, including our south Asian community.”
In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, Ahmed emceed a vigil where she spoke out about America’s racist roots, and introduced the community’s Black mothers and children to speak. She also joined peace rallies in support of BLM.
Back in 2018, Ahmed “introduced our district’s first ever resolution for Black Lives Matter Week of Action at Schools, which unanimously passed our board at the time.”
“It allowed for our people to celebrate, organize and advocate for black lives. That resolution has been introduced and passed every year since,” she noted.
Earlier this year, taking activism a step further, Ahmed, as chair of the board’s policy committee, led passage of civic engagement days for students in her jurisdiction.
“Essentially, that means that students in our county will soon be able to have their absences mark as excused if they are participating in civic or social justice efforts,” she said.
Additionally, year after year, during the vote on textbook selection, Ahmed has “been critical about moving away from presenting a Euro-centric perspective on history with our students, and being inclusive of indigenous, black and other ethnic perspectives.”
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She has also come out in support of a colleague, who’s “calling for changing the way history is taught to our schools in the district in this way,” she said.
Ahmed also “introduced a resolution this summer to non-renew our agreements with law enforcement to have armed police officers in schools.” The topic will be revisited in 2021.”
As a Board of Education member, she works with colleagues to “oversee the superintendent, pass policies and affirm a budget for the school district.”
Ahmed said she has led efforts for several budget amendments including $4.25 million for maintenance needs, more school psychologists and LGBTQ+ staff training.
To ensure that parent voices are heard, and that parents are as involved as they can be in District 5 schools, Ahmed said she ”encouraged parents to start parent-teacher-student organizations at schools.”
Every year, Ahmed holds a District 5 Parent Leader Convening, an event that brings together the PTA/PTO leaders and other parent advocates to engage in conversation about best practices for parent-teacher-student organizations.
Starting last year, Ahmed started an annual District 5 Student Shadow Day, where 25-30 students take a field trip to the headquarters of the Prince George’s County Public School System.
These are aimed “to better understand our education system, and encourage continuous student participation as community leaders.”
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She has “been and will always be an advocate for paying our employees well,” Ahmed said, noting she “was one of the few board members that came out publicly advocating for restoring lost employee pay steps from the last recession.”
As “a community leader and advocate in those spaces,” she said, “I’ve also introduced resolutions supporting the rights of our Muslim and immigrant families, as well as transgender individuals.”
“My vision is to be a transparent, accountable, engaged and communicative public servant for our kids and our community,” she said.
“My goal is to leave a legacy of leadership that encourages this kind of culture for years to come.”