Bizaye Banjaw, a second-year student at Tufts University, is a student leader committed to youth advocacy and empowerment. She is the president of the First Generation Collective, an organization committed to supporting first-generation, low-income, and undocumented students to address gaps in resources and build community. She is part of the Tisch Scholars, a three- year leadership program run by the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts. As part of this program, she works at the Boys and Girls Club with low-income students of color to guide them through the college application process and help them plan for life after high school. She served as a Democracy Coach for Generation Citizen, where she led middle school students through an action civics program geared toward addressing an issue in their communities. She was given the College Student Change Maker Award by Generation Citizen for her effort.
The best thing my parents gave me to walk through the world is perspective. It is easy to dismiss or discount someone because of their background, but when we do, we miss out on the true value and power of individuals. Educational institutions are not prioritizing individuals: they act as class barriers instead of class equalizers and they work to discriminate rather than include. For someone who understands education and schooling as a central part of their life, it is terrifying to think about the fact that the tool I believed would be my best chance, is actually a complicated system in which I wasn't meant to survive. I have been a tutor for more than 5 years working in my community and high school, and on campus expanding access for first-generation, low-income students such as myself. I want to make sure that marginalized students across all sectors of education can feel like their school works with them and that they have the tools to help themselves. I want to be a place for support for students in the future in any way I can.