Sameea Butt, Columbia University

DEMOCRACY COACH ALUMNI “While there’s a lot that doesn’t translate easily, the idea of taking action to solve a problem proves to be empowering for students wherever they may be.”
In 2011, Democracy Coach alumnus Sameea Butt joined the Columbia chapter of Generation Citizen as a Democracy Coach and later Chapter Director. After graduation, Sameea launched an action civics program in her hometown of Islamabad, Pakistan, through a program called EducationUSA Pakistan. Her most recent class chose to address child sexual abuse in street schools, which are private schools for low-income students and a popular alternative to public schools locally. The class partnered with a group of schools and a non-profit specializing in child sexual abuse prevention. At a coalition meeting, they officially agreed that the schools would establish a mandatory training for all staff on identifying victims of child sexual abuse, and one for children on how to identify and protect themselves from it. The estimated reach of their project is around 1,400 students this year alone. Sameea’s program even includes a Civics Day experience. At Civics Day, students told Sameea that they were stunned that adults would take them so seriously. They said they felt empowered and were more likely to work on problems in their community in the future. Three of her students are planning to establish action civics societies in their schools and one student aims to do this at his college, partnering college students with high school classrooms as Sameea did at Columbia University.
“While there’s a lot that doesn’t translate easily, the idea of taking action to solve a problem proves to be empowering for students wherever they may be. Similar to my experience with students in the Bronx, the learning process here in Islamabad results in important civic skills, knowledge and dispositions which I have no doubt my students will carry forward. They tend to emerge from the experience feeling empowered and motivated, ready to continue to act as democratic citizens despite the setbacks that are inevitable to the process.”

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