Success story of an Indian-American becoming the Youngest Member To Get Elected in US polls

Praneeta Mahajan

Praneeta Mahajan

Hamilton, 18 November 2022

Nabeela Syed, a Youth Success Story (website photo)

Youth around the World is stuck in a deep abyss of technology and while most of the narratives are centred around the negative impacts, a refreshing story out of the USA shows how youth has the capability of bringing about real, tangible change in the World with the help of these tools at their disposal.

 

One such success story, which needs to be amplified to inspire youth across the world, and especially for all migrant communities, particularly the Muslim community in New Zealand, is that of 23-year-old Indian-American, Nabeela Syed, a Democrat, who recently scripted history by becoming the youngest member to get elected to the Illinois General Assembly in the recent US midterm elections.

 

Ms Syed handily defeated Republican incumbent Chris Bos in the 8 November election for the 51st district in the Illinois State House with 52.3 per cent votes.

 

Celebrating her victory, she took to Twitter to introduce herself to the world. “My name is Nabeela Syed. I’m a 23-year- Muslim, Indian-American woman. We just flipped a Republican-held suburban district. And in January, I’ll be the youngest member of the Illinois General Assembly.” When I announced for State Representative, I made it a mission to genuinely engage in conversation with people – to give them a reason to get involved in our democracy and hope for better leadership that represents their values,” she further wrote in her Instagram post.

 

According to her official website, she served as the Campaign Manager for current Township High School District 211 School Board Member Tim Mc Gowan — a campaign that emphasised the values of accountability, community, and equity in our schools.

 

Customs and a Progressive Mindset- the perfect combination

 

Several factors make Ms Syed’s victory in Illinois’ 51st Congressional District noteworthy – she is young, a first-generation Asian-American and a hijab-wearing Muslim woman in a district that is overwhelmingly white.

 

But her father Syed Moizuddin said that he wasn’t surprised that she went into public service. He said in an interview that he was always confident she would do something significant.

 

In one of her podcasts, Ms Syed spoke of the decision to start wearing a hijab in her freshman year of school, prompting her family to worry if she will be bullied. “No one in my family did [wear a hijab],” she said. “I was feeling very close to my religion. I was drawn to wearing a hijab and I feel like that was one of the defining moments of me doing what I wanted to do because I truly believed in it… in me deciding for myself.”

 

The political science graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, ran on a progressive platform, pledging to protect women’s access to healthcare and abortion, make prescription drugs more affordable, increase support for public schools, ban military-style assault weapons, and enact common-sense gun safety measures.

 

Nabeela Syed during her campaign run (Nabeela Syed Facebook Photo)

A Fresh approach to campaigning

She attributed her success to ‘relentlessly knocking on doors to engage with voters and reaching out to them via mailers and television ads. “I’m feeling very, very grateful, I think we laid it all out there. We communicated our message” she said.

She also emerged as a success story for youth around the world, by proving the power of social media to achieve your goals and dreams.

Her campaign had the ‘Gen Z’ energy, enthusiasm and numerous selfies with her constituents, voters and members of the community, which made her relatable, friendly and approachable. She had a regular podcast, which helped amplify her reach in the wider community and create a more distinct profile as she managed her campaign with a refreshing young approach.

Youth working towards a better tomorrow

Ms Syed currently works for a non-profit in digital strategy and her work includes supporting a variety of civic engagement efforts including voter mobilisation, ending sexual assault on college campuses, and promoting gender equity.

She also serves as a mentor for youth as a high school debate coach. She is also active in her religious community at the Islamic Society of Northwest Suburbs and is a strong advocate for promoting interfaith dialogue and empowering young Muslim women to lead.

With the World functioning as a Global village and all borders erased through virtual inclusion and expansion, we must share such stories of achievement and vision across the World to ensure more motivated and aware young citizens.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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