Jibril Mohamed, an Ohio State University lecturer and executive director of the nonprofit Somali Community Action Network, said it is difficult for Somali-Americans to break through barriers in the political and public sector and in the workforce. Mohamed, who is also on the city’s Community Relations Commission, said he has spoken to Williams-Scott about boosting the Somali community’s civic participation.
Jibril Mohamed, a lecturer at Ohio State and executive director of the Somali Community Action Network, said millennials make up a significant proportion of Columbus’ Somali community.
“I think the Somali community is producing an important number of professionals who are highly engaged and educated and have an impact on the social and political landscape of Columbus,” said Mohamed.
Columbus City Councilwoman Jaiza Page grew up in the city and noticed how much more diverse Columbus was becoming when she moved back in 2007 from Washington, D.C., where she attended Georgetown University.
Page, 34, said that she and Council President Shannon G. Hardin, 30, who like her is African-American, have been encouraging younger people of color to get more involved in city government and the growth of the city.
“I really think it speaks more to where the city is, and how we see ourselves,” Hardin said. “Right now, this council is majority millennials.”
“This creative, more culturally diverse generation is more engaged,” he said.
- Carla Williams Scott, director, Department of Neighborhoods
- Jibril Mohamed, Somali professor, Ohio State University, faculty advisor for the Somali Students Association
- Ismail Mohamed, Columbus lawyer and previous democratic candidate
- Stefanie Chambers, professor of political science
Anita Waters, director of development for the Somali Community Access Network, often called SomaliCAN, said Mariam Mohamed’s visit was funded by grants from the Kiwanis Club of Columbus and the Schildhouse Founders Fund.
The goal is introduce Somali authors to the schools, said Jibril Mohamed, executive director of SomaliCAN, who is unrelated to Mariam.
“Kids can read these books and see things from the perspective of a Somali,” he said. “We want to promote understanding and a welcoming environment so our kids can be successful.”
On Friday night, hundreds of Somali American high school and college graduates will celebrate their academic achievements during the annual Ohio Somali graduation. Eight years after the first ceremony, the number of young Somalis donning caps and gowns has increased dramatically.
Jibril Mohamed, director of the non-profit SomaliCAN, says in 2010 the graduation rate for Somali students in Ohio was about 50 percent. That’s dramatically higher than the average student in the state.
Today, that rate is 80 percent.
The issue, Mohamed says, stemmed from a cultural difference: In Somalia, parents rely entirely on the teachers to educate their child, whereas in the U.S. the effort is more like 50-50.
Mohamed says the event started as a way to encourage Somali parents to be more involved in their children’s education, and for teachers to be more familiar with the community. Now the event continues to motivate young people, parents and educators.
And each year, SomaliCAN awards college scholarships to 11 high school graduates.
“It’s a way to bring all of us together at the end of the year after working so hard to produce all of these graduates,” Mohammed says.
Jibril Mohamed, director of SomaliCAN, says the organization will launch a civil leadership training program.