Civic Leaders Summit Welcomes Iranian American Students to Nation’s Capitol

From July 10 – 15, PAAIA’s Civic Leadership Program hosted our first Civic Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.! Thirty-two Iranian American high schoolers and counselors from fifteen states across the country came together for a transformative week resulting in a strong community of impressive young Iranian American leaders. 

Through the Civic Leaders Summit’s programming, participants gained important skills to help them lead by translating their values into action. Through discussions and interactive workshops, our participants learned to articulate shared values and respond mindfully to challenges faced by our Iranian American community and beyond. 

Civic Leaders Summit participants study issue areas to advocate for on Capitol Hill

Some highlights from the week: 

  • Exploring the history of our Iranian American community and its impact on our identity
  • Participating in public leadership training, developed by Harvard University Professor Marshall Ganz
  • Visiting the Library of Congress to learn about our Persian language heritage through the rare books collection
  • Enjoying Persian cuisine at Georgetown’s Peacock Café and hearing from Chef Maziar speak about his involvement in the first Nowruz at the White House and the role of culture and cuisine in diplomacy 
  • Training to advocate on Capitol Hill for a variety of issue areas important to the group 

For a deeper glimpse into the week, check out the “Summit” highlights on Instagram and follow @IACivicLeaders for updates on future opportunities!

Left: Civic Leaders Summit participants meet with Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49)
Right: Civic Leaders Summit participants hear from Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4)

The participants applied the lessons they learned throughout the week, which culminated in a visit to Capitol Hill where they met with thirteen congressional offices to share their thoughts about what matters most to them. Offices were selected based on where participants are from.

We also met with the first Iranian American Member of Congress, Congresswoman Stephanie Bice (OK-5), for lunch and Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) joined us on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building. Both shared their own stories of public service and answered questions from participants on the opportunities and challenges of representation and the democratic process.

Hear from some of the participants themselves on how the week went! 

“With new risks and new experiences, come friendships and education that will last a lifetime. The day on Capitol Hill opened my eyes to a potential political career.” – Arya, California 

“The Civic Leaders Summer Summit was an amazing experience. I met so many fellow like-minded Iranian Americans while being civically engaged and learning about our personal narratives.” – Lara, New York

“Getting to meet my representative allowed me to truly understand how powerful my voice is in political actions.” – Maire, Virginia

As we brought our inaugural summit to a close, none of us could have imagined a more inspiring and fulfilling week of practicing civic leadership while forming lifelong friendships. 

Looking ahead, we see a bright future as we build a credential program to continue to empower high school and college students to make an impact in their communities. Check out our website for updates. 

These programs and the unique opportunities they present to young Iranian Americans are only possible with your support. Please consider contributing to the Civic Leadership Program to invest in the next generation of leaders!

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