2 new student representatives take their seats on Philadelphia school board

Mike DeNardo
September 21, 2019 - 4:00 am
Doha Ibrahim and Imere Williams, the school board's new non-voting members.

Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Two high school seniors have taken their positions as non-voting members on the Philadelphia school board. 

Abraham Lincoln High School's Doha Ibrahim and Imere Williams, who goes to Boys' Latin of Philadelphia, bring varied perspectives to their new jobs as the student voices on the school board.  

Ibrahim, who came to Philadelphia from Canada, says she was castigated for being Muslim.

"I came in eighth grade. I wore a scarf. I looked different. I spoke another language, and I guess students found it like a target for me to tease, yeah. It was hard," she said. 

But she believes she was able to win them over. 

"I think over time they learned the type of person I am, and we're all here is to just graduate middle school and go on to high school and get that education," she added.

She is the student government president at Lincoln High, and the head of the English as a second language ambassador program.

"I speak Arabic, so I can take their opinions on the school district or the things that they want to see happen and change and translate that to the board. I think that's what I can bring to the table," she said. 

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Williams is the board's first student representative from a charter school, and he wants to bridge the gap between charters — which educate a third of Philadelphia's students — and traditional public schools.

"If there's a division then we're not going to get anywhere. We all have this common goal: to make the School District of Philadelphia the best school district, to make it a model school district. But if we're divided, we're not going to do that," he explained. 

Williams is inspired by his mother, who has cerebral palsy.

"Life has not been kind to her. She has a disability. She was brought up in foster care. Her foster care mother was very mean to her growing up and said a lot of things that didn't make her want to go on," he said. 

Williams wants to be a teacher.

"I want to be the best educator to walk foot on this earth. Like, that's my goal."

And he expects his experience as a board member will provide some valuable insight.