Raheela Ahmed, 18, a freshman at the University of Maryland at College Park, won an April 5 primary to run for the Prince George’s County school board in the state. The biology and business major raked in 34.3 percent of the votes in District 5, almost 1,000 votes ahead of incumbent and board chair Jeana Jacobs.
“It was really very exciting and also humbling to receive this very unexpected outcome in this race,” Ahmed told News India Times. “The voters were very supportive of us and the results from this primary were really motivating.”
She added that before the November polls, she will continue to meet more citizens, parents, teachers and community leaders.
Ahmed, who has spent 13 years in the school district, said it is facing a number of issues, including teacher retention, the lack of parent involvement, low graduation rates and a looming budget crisis. Her top priority if elected would be “to fine-tune communication channels between state officials and the people who work hands-on with the children in her district.”
Ahmed said that neither her age nor her headscarf have been any hindrance to her campaign so far. She said she has focused on proving that despite her age, she has the necessary experience to serve on the school board. “I’m very grateful to live in a district where people are open-minded to me wearing a headscarf and running for political office,” she said.
Her father, Shukoor, originally from Hyderabad, has been a key mentor. He ran twice for state delegate and lost, but in the process fueled his daughter’s political aspirations.
A program coordinator for Health Leads, a group that mobilizes volunteers to connect patients and their families with basic health resources, Raheela Ahmed has received many awards for her community service work and leadership in high school, according to her website. She is also a student presenter in the America Reads America Counts program at her university, which will allow her to visit troubled schools and address literacy issues with students and parents.
She was born and raised in Bowie, Md. Her mother, Nabila, is from Pakistan, but came to the United States when she was 5, and grew up in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Raheela Ahmed has a younger sister, Shabnam, a high school junior.