The making of a leader…Sarah Raza

  • Written by Kristen Hamilton

I continue to be inspired by the young adults in our community especially after chatting with Sarah Raza last week.  At only 17 years old, she is really making a difference and has the makings to be a leader in the future.

Sarah lives with her family in Woodinville and just started her senior year at Redmond High School (school district boundaries dictated that). 

She said she has always enjoyed history classes and attributes that to her love of reading.  “With History what you read is true and about our past,” Sarah said.  She chuckled when she added that she is enjoying math now as well and that stemmed from taking a Calculus class.  I chuckled as well saying that is when many people likely start to dislike math!

Student Leaders Group PhotoPuget Sound area Student Leaders at the Washington D.C. summit from left to right: Sarah Raza, Madeleine Brown, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Winter Holmgren and Youri Babakoff. (Courtesy photo)At school she’s active with the Debate team and is the president for this upcoming school year.  In Debate she focuses on the individual events and has attended state in the past for her Oratory, Impromptu, and IR (Interpretive Reading) categories.

Sarah is also Senior Class Treasurer this year and has been part of student government throughout her high school years.

And if those accolades weren’t enough for this bright young lady, in March of 2017 she started a nonprofit organization called Aware.  Aware’s mission is to embrace students with special needs.  By that she hopes to remove the stigma against students with special needs and include them in day-to-day activities in school that may be taken for granted.  She wants the entire student population to be able to participate in activities as simple as eating lunch amongst friends to attending prom.

Sarah’s personal story for creating Aware stemmed from helping a friend babysit her sister who suffered from severe autism.  What started out as a one day experiment turned into a full summer of fun spending time with the two girls and coming away with a completely different mindset and new understanding of the numerous obstacles that kids with special needs have to overcome. 

Aware is branching out to other schools as well and there is a chapter in both Bothell and Newport at this time.  She’s hopeful to get other schools involved with chapters of their own in the future.  To help that along, Aware was recently awarded one of the top six T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge Winners and will receive a financial contribution as well as valuable advice from T-Mobile’s legal, marketing, and financial teams.

I asked Sarah about her motivation to give back and get involved.  She said, “I have always been a very active volunteer.”  She credits her Muslim faith and being involved in the mosque for that foundation.  “Helping the community is something that has always been done,” she added.  It should be noted that Sarah has also volunteered at the Pacific Science Center, Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, and at the Autism Resource Center in Rawalpindi Pakistan.

I was introduced to Sarah by the management team at Bank of America following her internship this summer.

According to Bank of America Market Executive, Kim Vu, Sarah was part of the “dream team” chosen for Bank of America’s Student Leaders eight-week, paid internship program, which helps develop the next generation of local leaders by recognizing community-minded high school students and connecting them to employment, professional development and service opportunities.

This summer she worked with Special Olympics Washington on a number of different projects from helping put on this year’s USA Games to research and writing to learning the general operations of a nonprofit.   During the USA Games she said, “I interviewed some amazing athletes then we posted their stories on social media.” 

Sarah Raza.jpegSarah Raza (Courtesy photo)Sarah is so proud that she had the chance to be involved in the Bank of America Student Leadership internship.  “It was by far the best summer program I have ever done,” she said.  She felt it was a great experience with real life work and the networking was tremendous.

She learned about the internship through her school’s website on the career center page.  Sarah emphasized that it was a perfect fit for her since it involved community service and nonprofit involvement plus getting paid was a bonus.

In the future, college is definitely on the horizon but she’s not sure where she’ll end up yet.  She thinks UW is fantastic and her sister is a student there.  She’s also applying at Occidental College in LA along with all the Ivy League schools.   Acceptance and financial aid will help make the final decision.   When the time comes, she’ll pass the reigns for Aware to another student but will stay on as an advisor.

I asked if she had any final thoughts to give to other students that wanted to get involved and she said “Remember that every little bit helps.”

Sarah has done more than a little bit and I’m grateful for students like her that are getting involved every day in making our schools and the community a little better.

For more information:

Aware – visit
Internship – visit
Applications will be due this fall and are open to students in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

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