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posted Apr 28, 2017, 1:23 PM by Kristin Hernandez   [ updated Apr 28, 2017, 1:24 PM ]
Abigail Mariam
Abigail Mariam has helped implement policies that have decreased homelessness, improved housing and increased security in the Oakland area. The 2011 graduate of Granite Hills High School is currently working for Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson as a communications coordinator, and plans to pursue her doctorate in Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government this fall.

Mariam, who the AVUSD family knew as “Abby”, was born in Victorville and lived in Apple Valley for most of her life. After graduating from Granite Hills in 2011, Mariam went to Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. where she studied government. While at Harvard, Mariam received a fellowship that provided funding for her to complete research and her senior thesis paper, which focused on digital media and its effect on how people engage with government.

Mariam is passionate about creating policies that will have the greatest impact on the largest amount of people, despite a diverse variety of needs, preferences, backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses. “When you have a diversity of people, your ability to make policies and your ability to meet their needs becomes a lot harder,” she said. “There is no one solution that meets everyone’s needs, but I’ve been inspired to ask ‘How does someone like them and someone like me live in the same place, and what are the rules and systems that govern that so that both of us get what we need?’”

Mariam said that she first became interested in government while taking history and government classes at Granite Hills. When she was in 11th grade, Mariam had the opportunity to present a potential calendar change to the AVUSD Board of Trustees, along with several other classmates. “As a 16 year old kid having the opportunity to have that kind of influence really got me intrigued to find out what government actually looks like when citizens engage in a direct way,” she said.

During her years at Granite Hills, Mariam was involved in Key Club, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and athletics. “(Key Club) was a huge part of my experience,” she said. “I had to get into the practice of thinking about other people and investing in them, but also having the humility and the awareness to know that they were also investing in me.”

Mariam added that Advanced Placement (AP) classes were some of the most valuable resources she received at Granite Hills because they helped prepare her for college, and positioned her to be competitive in the college application process. “AP European history with Mr. Arnt really helped me get into the mindset of what college coursework would be like in terms of the rigor and the expectations,” she said. “I had at least an expectations of what some of the demands (of college) might be.”

“Granite was an environment where I felt like I hit my stride and I was also thankful to be in a class and cohort of people that were also really incredible,” she said. “I’m really grateful because so many doors have been opened to me that really didn’t have to. It was careful investment and guidance from teachers and mentors I had since I was a kid that helped me get to this point. I wouldn’t have event thought about government or research on government and government policies if I didn’t have teachers in high school who were pushing me to think about U.S. history and to think about other forms of history and other forms of study, and think about my role in it.”

Mariam encouraged future graduates to never give up, even when they feel discouraged. She expressed how difficult it was to face rejection and a challenging job market after graduation. “These experiences aren’t all perfect,” she said, referring to her accomplishments at Harvard. “There were periods of struggle too. Ultimately, it made me stronger because I learned how to be very diligent in the face of things not working out.”

Mariam looks forward to entering her doctoral program at Harvard in the fall. “It’s so exciting to me that I can take Granite Hills and AVUSD with me everywhere I go,” she said. “I am standing where I am here because of a lot of people that helped get me here.”