Raising awareness about social issues is important to Sarah Acosta Ahmad. Ever since she was very young, she has advocated for women’s rights and cultural diversity. She has the Spirit of Frida, demonstrating and speaking out for humanity while cultivating community service amongst friends. And she is only 20 years old.
As a student at DePaul University, Ahmad’s major is political science, along with women and gender studies. She also volunteers her time to teach children in underserved community schools in both Michigan and Illinois—mentoring to improve their academic scores.
“She has more understanding and maturity than her years,” said Debra Ehrmann, vice president of Centro Multicultural in Pontiac, Michigan. “Sarah demonstrates a strong leadership, compassion and most of all, empowering those she serves. She exemplifies the essence of this award in many ways.”
Ahmad attended Bloomfield Hills’ Andover High School, and was the only Latina. She made friends with students from different cultures, racial and religious backgrounds, and was the “glue” of these relationships, according to her mother Sonia Acosta.
“Despite that Sarah did not share the same socio-economical level as her friends, she was seen as the leader in the group for her skills in bringing them together and raising awareness about social issues. She could have become withdrawn and felt isolated as a minority in a large school, but instead she embraced her cultural upbringing and felt empowered to demonstrate to others that we can all get along and help understand each other better,” Acosta said.
Ahmad has a long list of involvement in social organizations and programs such as MEChA de DePaul, SOAP Human Trafficking Awareness, Girl Rising Documentary, Young Women’s Political Leadership, STARS Mentor Program, and Amnesty International. She recently traveled to Mérida, Mexico, to work with poverty stricken areas where she assisted young women to empower themselves by learning new skills to better their families and future.
Working on women’s issues is Ahmad’s passion, and she created a blog on domestic violence and human trafficking issues when she was just 17 years old.
Advocacy to improve the lives of young women has led to changes of policy on the DePaul campus with Ahmad’s involvement. Yet with all this community work, she still has a strong commitment to her education at the university and maintains a dean’s list status.
As a political activist leader in MEChA, a Chicano student activist organization that promotes political involvement, she was involved with DePaul’s chapter that held the MEChA National Conference in 2015.
“I have known Sarah since she was six years old,” Ehrmann said. “Seeing her develop a strong social consciousness while serving her communities with the dignity and respect speaks volumes to her character and her commitment for change.”