First Achieve at Highline College student elected to student government!

In early summer we got an email from Julie Pollard at Highline College with the incredible news that a student, Mahad Dahir, was elected VP of the student body at Highline!! Mahad is enrolled in Achieve at Highline College, which is an inclusive postsecondary education (IPSE) program. Mahad's platform was to bring a voice to students with disabilities, particularly those from immigrant communities (read more in this Highline College article).

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts have been a topic of conversation for students in many higher education spaces, especially over the last several years. Though students in IPSE programs are also having these conversations, it's not often that their voices are invited to be a part of the larger campus conversation around DEI. We think it is important for these student experiences to be highlighted. This blog post was written by Mahad, and touches on his college experience, his thoughts on diversity, equity, and inclusion.    

[UPDATED 10/11/22: as the previously elected President declared they were unable to perform the duties of the office, Mahad was voted in as Highline College Student Body President!]

Greetings one and all, from Seattle, Washington, a city of opportunity whose population is diverse. Unfortunately, the opportunities for BIPOC communities are finite from leadership to economic woes to human rights violations spanning decades. There are challenges that Seattle, just like the rest of the nation is facing, but with solidarity with each other’s struggles we can really achieve true and joyful liberation across global boundaries from this capitalist system. Before I delve into my plan to attain that goal, here’s a story about yours truly.

            My name is Mahad Dahir and I was diagnosed with autism at an early age which impacts my ability to communicate with the people around me. I’m also the son of a refugee whose community has stigmas regarding mental health and disability awareness. Growing up in Portland [Oregon] and Seattle, I was put in special education classes with other students from various backgrounds. I attend Highline College in Des Moines, Washington, just south of Seattle. This college has one of the most diverse student populations in the entire country. It has therefore been at the forefront of social change and human rights awareness for all its students. But there are a set of students who feel like their needs are not centered in the policy-making process. That’s why there is a special program that not only meets these students' needs but also trains them in order to prepare them on how to interact with society. This program is called Achieve and it centers [on] students with disabilities. It really connects them with resources along with how to contribute their time and energy to their communities. I got accepted into this program with the help of this amazing organization dedicated to serving immigrant and refugee communities and their loved ones with disabilities. Open Doors for Multicultural Families partners with the college to ensure that students in its Pathway to Graduation program not only get into the college but ensure that they too can be model citizens for their communities in order to create the change that we’ve all been fighting for.

            I’ve recently been elected vice president of the Associated Student body council at Highline. I’m the first person from the Achieve program to ever been elected to the student body government. It is an honor to be in this role at the same time it allows me to become a voice on issues impacting students with disabilities. These students have been historically silenced when it comes to the decisions that impact them in a major way. It is super imperative that a student of color with a background of uplifting my fellow students with disabilities represent communities like mine because they need to have someone advocating for their needs and interests. I’m going to use my position to create policies that will have a tremendous impact on students with disabilities at Highline College. I will also partner with organizations dedicated to fighting for immigrant rights ensuring that students with disabilities that come from immigrant backgrounds not only be educated about the issues that impact their lives but also help them advocate for what they believe in. As we move forward, there are a couple of principles that must be in place, number one, the education of issues that are of importance for our students of color with disabilities and number two, giving them the platform to speak up on their views and beliefs. By following these values along working together, we can truly achieve liberation as a united front for all students with disabilities not only in education but in other fields such as legal, employment, and medical services. Legislation is also key to holding our elected officials accountable to enacting these policies that enable this type of liberation. With that said, I have contributed to passing landmark legislation allowing immigrant parents [to] better understand how their children, especially those with disabilities, are performing in school. This legislation is known as, “Language Access in Public Schools,” or Washington state House Bill 1153 (HB1153) and it really empowers immigrant families through the interpretation of critical documents such as an IEP to make better informed decisions on how to move forward with their children in terms of their educational career. That was a part of a series of bills that empower immigrant families and their loved ones with disabilities to create the change that we’ve all been fighting for in our country.

            In closing, I hope that what I wrote here can serve as an inspiration for your journey into advocacy and liberation in your communities. As you do though, please continue to educate the people in your communities about the issues that impact immigrants and refugees because it is not about us here in the Greater Seattle Area, but all of us as a nation to move forward on a liberation agenda that uplifts everybody. As you go about your day, always remember to let love lead the way!!!!