Jahin Rahman and Ashfah Alam are Students for Change

Jahin Rahman may have left their native country of Bangladesh as a young schoolchild but never forgot their home. There is no dearth of scholarships, awards and honors to their name but deep within, Rahman nurtures a burning desire to help alleviate “the situation in Bangladesh.” Did that immediately bring an image to your mind? Well, Rahman wants to change that. And for their efforts, they’re one of two South Asians to win a Milken Scholarship.

Jahin Rahman

Changing Bangladesh one student at a time.

“When I entered high school in the U.S.A., I did research on child poverty and took a lot of classes online regarding sustainable development,” writes in The Queens Daily Eagle. And “whenever economists sought to exemplify extreme concentrated poverty, their immediate description was of South Asia or tropical Africa. When portrayal of an unsustainable city was necessary, the example was often my city, Dhaka…”

Today, Jahin Rahman is changing the lives of nearly 5,000 Bangladeshi street children and women through Efforts in Youth Development of Bangladesh (EYDB), a non-profit organization Rahman founded several years ago. With 300 volunteers from eight countries and a dozen corporate partnerships, EYDB is setting up libraries and literacy programs, as well as a day care center, computer lab, drug rehabilitation center, and stipend-based educational program for child servants.

During the pandemic, EYDB has provided educational materials for street children forced to leave school because of COVID-19. When Rahman learned how many opportunities rural Bangladeshi women miss because of menstruation, they worked with Days for Girls International to install a local sewing business that makes sustainable menstrual kits.

Building Character Through Extracurricular Activities

All this, perhaps before attaining legal drinking age. If this information has not already got you sinking lower in your seat, Rahman has also done some excellent work in their adopted home. They founded Global Awareness for Primary Education, which funds literacy projects in the developing world. It now has chapters in 50 schools across the U.S. Inspired by their own experience as an English language learner (ELL), Jahin Rahman created the New York City Youth Activism Coalition (NYCAC). NYCAC advocates for increased activism and enrichment programs.

Jahin Rahman is one of just six students and one of two South Asians recognized for their outstanding community work through the Milken scholarship. Scholars are chosen while high school seniors based on: academic performance, school and community service, leadership, and evidence of having overcome personal and social obstacles.

Milken scholarship holders receive a lifelong mentor/support system that includes ongoing career-related counseling, assistance in securing internships, opportunities for community service and a fund to assist their pursuit of any post-undergraduate career goals.

Credit: Ashfah Alam
Ashfah Alam, co-founder of The REACH Project (image credits: Ashfah Alam)

Fellow Milken scholarship holder and seat-sinkerizer is Ashfah Alam, also recognized for her community work co-founded The REACH Project, offering creative writing workshops that helped elementary and middle schoolers find their voices and document their lives, writing about everything from video games to mental health. During the pandemic, Alam and other volunteers offered online writing and STEM workshops, and created new curriculums and marketing teams to build a foundation for the future.

One of her larger interests is to extend to the wider community the same opportunities she got to explore her passions and build confidence through extracurricular activities at The Chapin School.

Ashfah Alam is an aspiring human rights lawyer and all set to study international relations and political science at Columbia University. Rahman is to study economics and international relations at the University of Pennsylvania. Both should graduate from college in 2025.

Love to read stories of South Asian changemakers? Read about Pulitzer winner Megha Rajagopalan here or check out fertility expert Dr Asima Ahmad’s fantastic work