Hometown: Iowa City, IA
high school: Iowa City HS
college: Mount Holyoke College
MAJOR: International Relations
Mariam Keita is a youth activist with focus areas in racial justice and income advocacy.
Despite growing up in Iowa City, Iowa, as a first-generation Gambian-American student, political events like the 2017 expulsion of Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh were formative moments for her. She hopes that the leadership, communication, and negotiation skills that she has built through community organizing will serve her well on her path to becoming a Foreign Service Officer. As a career diplomat, she would like to shape policies and resolve human rights violations like those perpetrated by Jammeh, while improving the quality of life for families like hers.
Mariam has implemented solution-oriented policy changes throughout her community, especially within education systems. In 2016, she began working directly with organizations like the Eastern Iowa Center for Worker Justice (CWJ) to promote equitable and inclusive practices in the Johnson County area. In working with the CWJ, she joined their Minimum Wage Campaign to fight for livable wages for Johnson County workers which eventually resulted in a symbolic minimum wage of $10.10.
As a member of Students Against Hate and Discrimination (SAHD), a student-led organization formed under the CWJ, Mariam lobbied for social justice teachings to be added to her school’s educational curriculum. This resulted in social justice classes being offered at two of the four high schools in her school district.
Throughout all of this, Mariam also remained actively involved in school. Using her interest in journalism and race-based dialogue as her motivation, Mariam pioneered the Culture section of her high school student publication, The Little Hawk, while serving on its editorial board. She also revived and coached her school’s competitive Black History Game Show Team, which finished as one of the top two scorers, three years in a row. Mariam has also participated in Mock Trial as a witness for a state-qualifying team and has a background in high school Policy Debate. She also founded and implemented a peer mentorship initiative at her high school, BECOME Scholars, with the goal of preparing the next class of leaders at City High.
Mariam will study International Affairs and Africana Studies at Mount Holyoke College. She hopes to pave the way for other young Black women to inspire changes within their communities.