Semoi Khan designs for social change

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Semoi Khan, a freshman architecture student at New York’s Pratt Institute and winner of the American Banker’s Young Women’s Leadership Award, has always been passionate about social justice. In September 2020, as her school year at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan began amid a global pandemic, she founded the New York Student Justice League DoSomething Club, aimed at motivating young people to solve local and global issues, including racism, animal rights, climate change and voting rights.

Khan, whose club averaged 40 members, held meetings for several campaigns in New York. His club was founded in conjunction with the organization Do somethingwhich sponsors active student social justice clubs in every area code in the United States and in 131 countries.

“I assembled a group of board members and held meetings taking into account my members’ availability times and advertised on Facebook and Instagram to remind them to attend meetings,” said Khan, describing her role as club president. “I also improved my outreach and speaking skills because I was constantly on Zoom, talking to my members, urging them to talk and share stories and get involved in activities. learned to talk to people from other organizations, to government officials. I learned to write an email to an agency.”

One of the club’s projects that Khan is most proud of is the ‘Disrupt Racism’ campaign. This campaign focused on defining terms used when discussing racism, making posters to advertise businesses owned by people of color, and starting discussions related to race in America. “The more conversations we had, the more we realized that this is what it is, and that’s what it’s called, and how to stop ourselves from doing these things and how to tell others that it’s not is not good,” Khan said. “People were telling their own stories and acknowledging what was happening around them.”

Khan and his fellow club leaders focused last year on the issue of voting rights. “To play an active role in our community, you need to know who’s on the ballot and what it stands for,” she said. She worked on spreading information on social media about where and how to register to vote.

Khan is also an aspiring architect who has found ways to merge her passion for architecture and sustainability with her passion for social justice and leadership. “I realized that my feelings about social justice can also be linked to my feelings about environmental justice, because they are intertwined, because those who are most disproportionately affected by our legal system are also the most negatively affected. by the environment. They go hand in hand,” she said. . “I want to be a political architect, where my architecture influences politics. I will push people in such a way to realize something is wrong and make changes.”

“Architects are leaders,” Khan said. “Architects work with a large group of people. You plan everything based not just on design and art, but on how it affects the community and its environment. Architects need to think, how will this design be good for my surrounding community and the environment?

To pursue her interest in architecture, Khan was part of several architecture programs through the Cooper Union, including the school’s senior design program, and served as treasurer of the Stuyvesant Architecture Club. . In addition, she has been a design engineer since December 2020 at ACE Mentorship Program, a free, award-winning after-school program for students pursuing careers in architecture, construction, and engineering. She also completed an internship at AECOM, an architectural firm based in New York.

Although architecture and social justice are two of Khan’s main passions, Khan is the first to admit that her “interests are really everywhere”. In high school, she was the founder of the henna club, StuyHenna; a photographer for the photography fair; and volunteer for the Stuyvesant Red Cross Club. She is also interested in art and grew up wanting to be a performer.

One of Khan’s strongest beliefs about leadership is that it can’t be a solo role. “The more people, the better,” she said. “The more hands working on a project, the faster it gets done, the more efficiently it gets done. A good leader must recognize that others are really good for a second pair of eyes, and that another hand is always excellent.”

“I’m a better speaker, communicator, and popularizer, and I think I’m more humble after my leadership. I’ve had other people bring their strengths to the table where I’ve been lacking, and I’ve learned from them,” Khan said.

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