PAAIA Mentorship Alumna Donya Nasser becomes the First Iranian American U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations

September 18th, 2015, Washington, D.C. – In July, 2015, Donya Nasser became the first Iranian American to be appointed as the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations. An incredibly inspiring young professional, she seeks to galvanize and empower youth to strive to secure equality and justice, and to protect the marginalized.

Born in Orlando, Florida, Donya is currently working at the U.S. Department of Health. She has previously interned for the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, and the Brennan Center for Justice. Among numerous other impressive positions, Donya is currently the youngest Board Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Board. A Truman scholar, Donya is pursuing a career in serving women’s rights and marginalized communities on an international level.

“I’m really interested in empowering the Iranian American community through leadership and through spaces that we’ve never occupied…I am the first Iranian American in this position as a youth observer, which is really cool when there is so much heated debate about diplomatic openings to Iran. We [Iranian Americans] do have a seat at some tables,” Donya told PAAIA in an interview.  “Iranian Americans have such amazing positions in so many different sectors… But when it comes to public policy, when it comes to international affairs, when it comes to politics, we’re not the face. I want to be that face. As a first generation Iranian American, I am doubly proud serve as the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations.”

Donya’s Iranian roots have had an enormous impact on her life and career. Her family, both in the US and in Iran, who are enormously supportive of her education and career, have taught her the importance of cherishing her culture and background.

She participated in PAAIA’s mentorship program in 2013, working with Samira Jali, who is currently at the Department of Health and Human Services. “The mentorship program really changed my life mainly because [my mentor] was just so wonderful,” Donya expressed. “She would give me advice like the older sister I never had… that kind of guidance was great because it was also the first time that I had mentorship and guidance from an Iranian American woman and she knew a lot about where I was coming from.”

Looking back on her decision to apply to the U.S. Youth Observer position, Donya advises young Iranian Americans to strive to achieve more. She explained, “my motto is ‘there’s no harm in doing the application… just do it, submit it.’” 

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