How Bushra Amiwala Became the Youngest Muslim U.S. Elected Official & What She Hopes For Next

Her Campus first met Bushra Amiwala when she was honored as one of our 22 Under 22 Most Inspiring College Women of 2018, after running against a 16 year incumbent for a position on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Bushra was looking to serve as a voice for her underrepresented generation, as well as those in marginalized communities. While she didn't win the seat on the county board, she managed to mobilize young people across the country to engage with the political system. Earlier this year, at the age of 21, Bushra became the youngest Muslim U.S. Elected Official when she won a seat on the District 73.5 School Board.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It’s official! I was sworn in last night. Very excited to serve on D73.5’s Board of Education!

A post shared by Bushra Amiwala (@bushraamiwala2018) on

 

Bushra wasn't sure if she would ever run for another position after her first election, but her opponent encouraged her to embark on the campaign trail again; he wanted her to stay engaged and, with the board of education elections coming up, it made sense. “A lot of my passion and interest lies in educational inequality,” she said. “And he was aware of this.” That first campaign set the foundation for success for her campaign for the school board. “It paved the way for strong relationships, a powerful network and the skills and expertise to run a campaign. I was able to leverage my new network to fundraise more effectively, and I could afford to send out three pieces of mail whereas last time, I wasn’t able to send a single piece,” she said. Bushra also received some of the same endorsements that her opponent had received during her previous election, like Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. RUN the Series, a program that transforms women’s political campaigns “from striving to thriving,” also supported her during her most recent election. 

 

In her role on the board, Bushra takes part in hiring and assessing the superintendent, implementing the district’s 5-year strategic plan, and renewing contracts for school buses or lunches. It doesn’t take up as much of her time as it sounds like it might. She prioritizes board meetings as they occur (normally once a month, with an event here or there), while working full-time during the day at her internship at Deloitte and taking classes at night at DePaul University (luckily, a full course load is only four classes since they're on a quarter system). 

 

“I found campaigning for office to be much more exhaustive than actually holding said office. What helps is the support from my close friends and family. Having the support system that I do makes everything possible,” she said. It also helped her win her seat on the school board. During her first election, Bushra found that even close members of her community casted doubt, but had their full support this time around. “I jokingly call myself the Bernie Sanders of the Muslim community,” she said. “My election loss galvanized my community more to come out and ensure they supported me as a candidate; it was their votes that put me over the edge, and I won by 50 something.”

 

The focal points of the attention on her second campaign changed a great deal as well. During her run for the Board of Commissioners, the media tended to focus on how Bushra styled her hijab over the platform she was running on. With this campaign, she says she didn't find that to be the case at all. “I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I didn't get very much media attention or traction with this election,” she said. “Something that did excite me quite a bit was with my Cook County Board candidacy, most of the articles highlighting my efforts headlined ‘Muslim teen running for office,’ but once I was elected onto the School Board the headlines read, ‘Bushra Amiwala reflects on school board victory’. I truly feel like I have earned a name for myself in politics, literally and metaphorically.” 

 

As the youngest Muslim elected official, we’d agree! Bushra admits that it’s a heavy title to carry on her shoulders, but she’s very excited for what lies ahead. “I hope for a day when there are no longer ‘firsts,’ because diversity and inclusion will be the norm,” she said. In the meantime, she hopes to use her voice to bridge the common concerns of all of the communities in her district, representing every one of them.