The Students Learn Students Vote Coalition is lucky to have incredible partners carrying the #StudentVote movement forward. We are the largest national nonpartisan network dedicated to increasing the college student vote, and we’ll be uplifting someone each month that makes our Coalition so unique. This April, we want you to meet Raaheela Ahmed – Deputy Director of the Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project. She’s been working toward a more equitable democracy since she was as young as 5-years-old. Raaheela caught up with us on everything from how she centers equity and racial justice in her #StudentVote efforts to her personal run for office.
How did you first get involved with the #StudentVote?
My involvement in public service began at 5 years old — canvassing and supporting my father when he ran for elected office. Despite losing his races over the years, participation in his electoral journey sparked my own. I’ve since run for office a few times (and won), representing students as a member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and representing my community as a member of the Prince George’s County Board of Education in Maryland.
How do you support campuses and student voters?
I work for Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project! This national nonpartisan nonprofit works to institutionalize voting on 300+ college campuses across the country through working with administrators, faculty, students, and partners. Among our other work, we hire 200-400 student fellows every semester across many states to advance civic engagement work on their campus. I’m grateful to be part of such a powerhouse team that is committed to grassroots activism and student empowerment in the democratic process.
How do you and your organization center racial justice and equity?
Every team member in our organization went through a year of intentional, internal work with SHIFT to address our own individual and collective biases, challenges, and growth points when it comes to how we operate in the voting space. It was an enlightening and incredibly thought-provoking process of growth, that I’m excited we navigated together!
Amidst this work, we expanded our Legacy Initiative work and team, which is focused on supporting HBCUs across the nation.
How can others support your work or get involved?
- If you’re a student that cares about democracy, consider applying for our paid Democracy Fellowship program. Applications are currently being considered for the fall semester! Additionally, you could join our Student Voting Network, and connect with over 1,500 students that are actively working on their campuses to institutionalize voting!
- If you’re a campus administrator or faculty member, consider signing up your campus for the Voter Friendly Campus Program! We just went through our latest designation process, but signing up for our listserv will allow you to know when the process with begin again
- If you’re a state or local nonpartisan organization that is interested in partnering with us for an event or campaign, contact one of our fantastic state or regional staff members. We’re currently in the process of organizing State Student Voting Summits in all of the states where we have designated state team members, and welcome partnership with like-minded civic organizations!
- If you’re a national nonpartisan organization that is interested in partnering with us, the illustrious Mike Burns is the guy you need to chat with!
- If you’re someone that wants to peep on our work, and jump in to some of our other cool work and initiatives, sign up for our email list or follow us on Instagram, Twitter or TikTok!
Finish this sentence: In a perfect democracy…
…and can do so easily, without political contention
…and well-intended individuals with community-centered ideas get elected to office
…and the government operates with the interests of everyday people chiefly at the forefront, not well-funded politicians, people, corporations, or special interest groups