Major: Social Work (Community Organizing, Planning and Development)
School: Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work
Sponsor: San Ramon Valley Islamic Center (SRVIC)
Maha Akhtar is pursuing her master’s in social work with a concentration in Community Organizing, Planning and Development at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Maha completed her B.S from the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College in June 2011 majoring in Graphic Design and Political Science. As secretary of the Muslim Students Association at Queens College, Maha initiated interfaith and social justice events and efforts to engage both the Muslim and non-Muslim community of New York City. Since February 2012, Maha has been working as the Youth Leader at Turning Point for Women and Families. Her primary responsibilities include organizing an annual workshop series for young Muslim women, the ARISE NY! anti-bullying interfaith campaign and annual summit, and running a weekly Youth Group for Muslim teenage girls. Maha also assists with advocacy efforts and community outreach. Born and raised in New York, Maha is fluent in Urdu and conversational in Arabic and Spanish.
Through her studies, Maha hopes to gain the tools and knowledge of community development and effective organizing to apply to both Muslim and non-Muslim communities. She plans to work directly with community members towards solutions to community issues including youth concerns, education and poverty.
Since receiving the ISF scholarship, I have successfully completed my first year of social work school at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College with Honors grades in three courses. I also simultaneously completed by first-year field placement internship at Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House. I served as a Community Organizer of a weekly Community Action Group of 25 immigrant adult English Language learners of diverse backgrounds and ages. I facilitated weekly workshops, trainings, and discussions as a space to provide our participants with the tools they need to build self-advocacy and self-empowerment. We focused on training participants to become more confident and informed communicators through various activities and trips. Our key highlight includes taking 25 participants to Albany for Immigrant Day of Action, where our participants spoke directly to New York State Senators and Assemblymen. They shared their personal stories and pushed for the need to expand and fund more immigrant services that they benefit from at Jacob Riis Settlement House, including English classes and legal support. Currently, I am continuing to work at Jacob Riis as a Program Aide to provide case management services and support in running English classes.