Patrick Henry High School’s Janaan Ahmed has been selected to serve as the student representative on the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) board.
Ahmed, a 16-year-old junior, was selected after applying to serve on the board, and will begin service in January. Ahmed is one of the students leading the charge to change the name of her high school, which is named for Founding Father and former slave owner Patrick Henry. Henry, who is remembered best for his “give me liberty or give me death” declaration against British rule … a speech in which he likens the plights of Colonials to that of slavery … would later speak out against American slavery but never offered the nearly 80 human beings he owned as slaves their freedoms.
Ahmed said she will be a representative for change when she joins the board.
“I am hungry for change. I have always been told, ‘a closed mouth does not get fed.’ Unfortunately, this is true even for people who believe they are powerless to open their mouths because of insufficient resources and not enough listening ears. As a result, these people are starving for change,” said Ahmed in her application to serve on the MPS board. “A strength that I will bring to the Board of Education is advocacy. With the position of student representative, I will be able to continue to be the resource for starving souls craving change. I have the strength of awareness which will transform me into the person who will recognize the closed mouths of unheard voices in our school district. I want to be that resource that gives a voice to people of my community. I want to inspire my community to discover their power and potential of making the change they wish to see. A strength that I wish to bring to the board is creativity.”
Priorities for Ahmed are dismantling stigmas in public school concerning mental health, hiring more teachers of color, issues of school funding, college readiness, community engagement with schools, promoting peace in schools (restorative practices), the usefulness of school resource officers (SROs), promoting student awareness of district policies and processes and offering a more inclusive history and social studies curriculum.
“I am willing to find innovative ways to strengthen, empower, and lift the voices that too often go unheard. I do not wish to speak for anyone, instead, I intend to instill in them the confidence they need to be equally heard,” said Ahmed.
MPS has appointed students to its board since 2015 saying “the student representative provides an important perspective and gives voice to those at the heart of the district’s work.”