A Westminster High School junior hopes to address issues of equity, empower student school board representatives and shape legislation with a younger view as a new member on a state youth council.
Sumiya Rahaman is one of the 23 young adults selected to serve on the 2021-2022 Maryland Youth Advisory Council.
The council addresses issues impacting youth by working to provide legislative recommendations, spreading public awareness of youth policy issues and being a liaison between young people and policy makers, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services.
The 17-year-old said she first heard about the role through a friend . She didn’t plan to apply at the time because she didn’t think she’d be selected. But Rachel Greenburg, a clinical counselor with the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau at the time, helped change Rahaman’s mind.
“I remember her saying, ‘Samiya, you would be a really good candidate for this,’” Rahaman said.
Greenburg, also a member of Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, said she was concerned that there was no Carroll County representative.
“I immediately thought of Sumiya for the role due to her leadership qualities and passion for advocacy,” Greenburg said in an email. “Sumiya has always presented as responsible, mature, respectful, and motivated to make a difference. I knew she would be a positive role model for youth in Carroll County, particularly youth of color.”
She added that most of her interactions with Rahaman were through Zoom. And she knew if the high school junior could covey those qualities virtually, “you know they must be even more of a positive role model in person.”
Rahaman was notified that she was selected as she was sitting through an assembly on the first day of school.
“Mr. [John] Baugher was giving a speech on students achieving great things in the assembly,” she said about her principal.
She checked her phone and saw a text from her mom who said she received an email announcing Rahaman’s acceptance.
During the application process, Rahaman said she was asked what she would seek to do as a youth council advisory member. In response, she said she had a passion for legislative research, racial justice, education equity, and that her goals included seeking voting rights for student members on local boards of education.
“So, a lot of the work that I do is based around equity,” she said, adding it’s something for which she and her classmates are continuing to fight.
When she lived in Bangladesh, she noticed girls were not given the same opportunities as the boys.
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“It really did bother me and I really wanted to do something about it,” she said.
When she moved to Carroll County, she noticed she and other students of color were treated differently than the white students. She said she remembers classmates making fun of her accent and assuming her friend was poor because of her skin color. They felt like they had to deal with it, she said, because they did not have any proof.
She eventually joined Carroll Kids for Equality, a student group working to spread equity awareness and to address inequities in the county.
The group’s focus now is providing more mental health resources for different groups of students, Rahaman said. She added that Black, Indigenous [people] and people of color often times do not ask for help. Carroll Kids for Equality hope to change that by creating a space where they feel more comfortable reaching out.
“Another thing I really hope to accomplish with equity is to really have a conversation with our schools in terms of equity,” she said. “I don’t want equity to be seen as a political thing.”
It’s also something she wants discussed during her two-year term on the state’s advisory council. She said they already had their first monthly meeting a few weeks ago and the second is scheduled for Oct. 9. Her goal is to get students more involved in these conversations by asking them what they think of the issues, and, hopefully, “convince the Maryland Governor to pass some bills related to student representative voting rights” or education equity, she said.
Of the 10 jurisdictions represented on the council, Rahaman is the only representative of Carroll County. She said she hopes she’s “able to inspire more Carroll County students to be part of the council … because Carroll County often times doesn’t get a representative.”