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Sabah Hussain USA, 19

project: The Chicago Students Union
Basic Human Needs: Education

While growing up in Pakistan, Sabah found it hard to learn in the poor conditions in her school and the unpleasant treatment from her teachers. When Sabah immigrated to Chicago, she was excited about a better educational experience, however she found similar neglect throughout Chicago’s public schools due to lack of funding and student representation. After the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike in 2012, Sabah mobilized a group of students throughout the city and created The Chicago Students Union (CSU). CSU advocates for equitable funding for all public schools, rooted in the belief that an investment in education where poverty and violence is prevalent will promote positive fundamental change. Sabah believes funding activities beyond the classroom such as art, music and science will positively engage students and increase their chances of graduating high school tenfold while decreasing their chances of participating in gangs, drugs and violence. After five years, CSU has established dozens of chapters across Chicago, organized countless rallies, held regular citywide student meetings and engaged approximately 6,000 students, parents and community members. Sabah is working to convert students from passive consumers to active stakeholders in their education, and represent the student perspective at meetings with the Board of Education and state politicians. CSU is currently working with students from an additional 15 schools to start CSU chapters. Sabah envisions CSU spreading into communities throughout the United States, creating a network of student unions that improve public school systems nationwide.