2020 - CONNECTICUT
Mariam Khan is a senior at Hamden High School in Hamden, Connecticut. As Mariam observed how politics affected her world, she realized there was no existing outlet for students to express their ideas within the community. In response, she founded the Global Youth Activists (GYA), a youth-driven organization which aims to amplify student voices, fight for marginalized communities, and use empathy to combat hate. In the past two years, GYA has led initiatives addressing community inequities and empowered students to make change. At Hamden High School, GYA has launched mental health awareness initiatives to direct students to resources, and led the Period Heroes campaign, which struck down the 25-cent fee placed on period products. GYA has also prioritized dialogue on local and global issues within the community. Mariam moderated Hamden’s first-ever mayoral debate geared towards student issues and organized Building Compassion: Idres' Story, an event where students heard the story of a local refugee student and learned how to become allies in fighting the stigma surrounding refugees. After Hamden High was affected by a racist incident, she organized forums with politicians of color on transforming acts of hate into a call for legislative justice, and led advocacy for an increased student voice on school policy. Through her role as student representative to the Hamden Board of Education, Mariam has advocated for the recognition of different cultural holidays and the first-ever student-led proposal on a multicultural class at HHS. She also serves on the Connecticut State Student Advisory Council on Education and the Commissioner's Roundtable on Family and Community Engagement in Education to increase equitable opportunities for students all over Connecticut. Through her role as the state-lead of Connecticut Period, she's drawn awareness to the intersection of race and period poverty, advocated for free menstrual products on a statewide level, and led her state's first period rally. Her journey as a club president, student activist, and active community member has led her to prioritize constructive conversations on race, privilege, and bias, and given other students a space to call for action. A graduating senior, Mariam is excited to see future students use GYA to further social justice.