Lake Park High School graduate selected for female leadership scholarship

A Lake Park High School graduate is one of eight Roosevelt University students to participate in a scholarship program aimed at women on their way to becoming leaders in their profession.

Poonam Rahman, a 21-year-old senior psychology student and non-profit organizer, has been selected as a Deutsch Herczeg Fellow. She will receive a scholarship of $ 5,000 and a path towards a professional internship. Rahman was born and raised in Roselle to parents in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She graduated from Lake Park High School in 2018 and lives in Roselle.

The scholarship program matches participants with a member of the Women’s Leadership Council for one-on-one mentorship. The board hosts programs, coaches members and promotes initiatives that help close the gender gap. “As a woman of color, I think it’s important for young girls to have role models who look like them and come from a similar background,” Rahman said. “I hope to deepen my work in women-centered leadership and mentoring with like-minded women.

The exchange is named after Joan Deutsch Herczeg and was started with funding from her daughter, Larissa Herczeg, a Trustee of Roosevelt and Managing Partner of Oak Street Real Estate Capital.

Rahman’s passion for advocating for women and communities of color has been constant throughout her life. At the College of DuPage, she started a women’s empowerment club called Girl Up, a student organization that highlights the issues girls and young women face in some developing countries. She transferred to Roosevelt from the College of DuPage to major in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience and a minor in general affairs, and she hopes to graduate next May.

Rahman, who is the vice president of the Roosevelt Muslim Student Association, has already started planning ambitious ways to stand up for others. At the College of DuPage, she launched two 501 (c) (3) nonprofits called Virtue Mental and Shattering Bias In STEAM, the latest of which is the title of a book she intends to publish in September.

Virtue Mental is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free mental health resources to underprivileged communities, especially recent American immigrants. It has an executive council of six members, with a staff of 100 people.

Rahman hopes to become a doctor and a lawyer. Regarding the drastically different education requirements, she says the pandemic has exacerbated issues women of color already face, such as gender-based violence, mental health and instability at work. She believes that working in several areas will help more and bring about change.

“I think of myself at 15 going through these issues,” Rahman said. “Growing up, there were only two South Asian students in my college, with no one to stand up for me. I know there are people in worse situations than me and I want to do my part.”

Rahman says she is introverted and keeps her spirits up by staying close to her family and embracing her heritage. She is fluent in Bengali, listens to Bengali music, and enjoys dishes like ilish, a dish made from fried fish and rice.

“A lot of times immigrant families are encouraged to assimilate and blend in, but I never believed it,” Rahman said. “It’s important to follow these traditions. I don’t think I should ever have to hide it.”

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