Youth Changemaker: Abigail Mariam

"Whatever local grassroots endeavor she takes on, it seems Abigail discovers an effective pathway to impact. Her extensive experience in policymaking and engagement allows her to understand the effort it takes to engage in government and how to represent those interests."

- The youth-led Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council

Abigail Mariam is a student, engaged citizen and recognized humanitarian. A rising junior at Harvard College, she is studying government, health policy, and Spanish.

Despite being just 19, Abigail serves as co-director of the mentoring component of the Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment (BRYE) program, which provides young immigrant students with academic, social and political opportunities. As a teacher with the BRYE summer program, she saw first-hand the need among immigrant students’ for an introduction to American culture. She began to teach her students about the basic liberties in the First Amendment in a fun and relatable way. In doing so, she learned that a creative approach works best and that many of the problems and concerns immigrant students have can be solved by providing the right information.

In her home state of California, Abigail has worked to help parents become more engaged in local school decisions.  She interned with Parent Revolution, an educational reform organization based in Los Angeles that empowers parents to be involved in personnel and academic decisions. While working there, she created opportunities to mobilize community members and provide access to parents.

"Most of my approach centered on building a 'ladder of engagement' for both parents and community groups to be involved in local education reform," she says. She helped parents and students engage in the ways that are most comfortable and realistic for them given their time, capacities and interests.

"Ms. Mariam is an empathetic leader. Her passion to work with underserved communities and build capacity within those communities is truly unmatched," says nominator (and family member) Aida Mariam. "Her commitment to grassroots, community based public policy is clear from her daily civic engagement, ranging from her peers at Harvard to the immigrant students in urban Boston. She believes that a challenging and constructive academic experience is an invaluable gateway to opportunity for students in America."

To complement her perspective of local grassroots policymaking and engagement, Abi's long-term goals are to engage with policy at the national and international levels as well, focusing on education policy and  development in Africa. Having benefited from a solid educational foundation, Abigail would like to provide the opportunities she has had to other students.

Similarly, she would like to be a liaison between the U.S. and different nations in Africa to promote sustainable African development.

She is a strong advocate for youth engagement in the policymaking process. "Expressing my views on policy change is important to me because it allows me both to dispel the image of youth apathy and  advocate for issues I care deeply about," she says. "The Presidential Youth Council could be a powerful conduit for young people to communicate their ideas for domestic and global policy changes."

On being awarded one of the Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers, Abigail says:  "I am honored, deeply humbled, and invigorated in my service ideals to create gateways for others. I hope to use this opportunity to open the door for other young people to advocate for what they believe in."

"I hope to use my visibility as a Changemaker to raise awareness around these key policy issues and mobilize young people to advocate for them," she adds.

This profile is one of the Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers, a series hosted by SparkAction and the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council to recognize young changemakers influencing policy and practice at the local, state and national levels.

The members of the youth-led Campaign chose the 24 youth who are featured in this series, from entries submitted by peers and mentors.

We’re always looking for more profiles of young people making a difference, so submit one of your own!

Harvard University

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