Fahria Khan (Courtesy: Maheen Hamid)

Fahria Khan, a highly qualified education activist, is a first-generation Bangladeshi-American running for one of two highly contested seats on the Fremont School Board in November’s mid-term elections.  If elected, she will become the first South Asian to sit on the 5 persons Board of Trustees, writes Maheen Hamid.

Fremont schools have an overwhelmingly high Asian population (69% of ~35,000 students); the city also hosts 50% of all Indians in Alameda county.  It is high time to have a voice on the Board, who understands the sentiments and needs of this growing community in Fremont.

A MIT graduate who is an intelligent and articulate mother of five, Fahria has been an active force within her children’s schools and FUSD for more than 15 years. Heavily endorsed by the Mayor of Fremont, all city councilmembers, Congressman Ro Khanna, FUDTA and others, she is as an informed voice for parents that the district knows to respect.

One of her goals is to improve communication among all stakeholders: students, district, parents, teachers and other staff. Khan is known to be able to work across the board to get things done.  In 2010 she, along with a small group of concerned parents, spearheaded the grassroots ‘Save Fremont Students’ campaign and raised over $600K in 3 short months to address budget cuts to Science, PE and Music programs in FUSD.  With the alliances she has formed over the years, she is well positioned to be a bridge between FUSD and the immigrant communities.

Team Khan canvassing neighborhoods in Fremont, Calif., on a crisp weekend morning (Khan4Schools campaign volunteer)

A proponent of redefining what it means to be successful, one of three platforms of Khan’s campaign is mental health and well-being.  This is an unpopular mantrain Asian communities, but Khan has held firm that children need to prepare for long-term life success.

She has, and will continue to work with a wide variety of organizations such as Tri City Health, PTA Council, FUSS and Fremont Youth and Family Services to provide mental health and counseling support to students as well as offer professional development for teachers and workshops, seminars for parents.  She has been active with initiatives designed to alleviate stress, leading an effort to bring a petting zoo to Irvington High School during finals week.

Interestingly, UC Berkeley offers similar programs to positively impact mood and stress as well and FUSD has shown interest in making it a replicable initiative.  As a Trustee, she will work to dedicate more funds for on-site services.

Informed about the potential of what the district can do, Khan wishes to lead the charge in bringing more innovation to Fremont schools by tapping into a recent grant from IDEO geared towards designing a classroom experience the children can better connect to in this digital age.

Khan’s ideas often face resistance, but she does not shy away from fighting for what’s right over what’s popular.  Khan’s fast-growing base of supporters eagerly await a patriotic, American voice of South Asian roots on the School Board.