How do I know #ILookLikeAPolitician?

Encouragement & Role Models

By Yolian Ogbu

“Your life has purpose.
Your story is important.
Your dreams count.
Your voice matters.
You were born to make an impact.”

This is an English translation of what my Eritrean immigrant parents would recite to me in their native language, Tigrinya, growing up. As a first-generation Eritrean-American, my parents’ courageous sacrifices to seek out the American Dream have taught me what resilience and fighting for your dreams truly means.

Imagine a young girl who, while her 10-year-old classmates were tap-dancing or juggling for our 5th-grade talent show, decided to write and give a speech to her elementary school student body on why she would one day become the President of the United States.

The author at the ceremony designating March 21st Yolian Ogbu Day.

Fast forward six years later and she’s the only teenager who would regularly attend city council meetings. As a fierce advocate for civic education, she had been a top speaker in the nation through an American Legion oratorical competition, and even had March 21st named after her in her hometown for her efforts!

Then, after participating in Running Start’s Elect Her training this past year, the then-19-year-old girl would go on to campaign and become the youngest Student Body President at the University of North Texas.

Now at 20 years old, not only does she get to represent over 31,000 students but she also serves as a Gen Z engagement director for a local city council campaign.

That little girl with big dreams is me!

Growing up, I’ve always heard the phrase, “you can’t be what you can’t see” and it was in 2018 when I saw Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Lauren Underwood being sworn into the United States House of Representatives that everything changed for me, that I really knew that I looked like a politician. The power of representation is truly indescribable. Thanks to organizations like Running Start that believe in this power, I have the confidence that one day I will be sworn into public office with my parents by my side.

Yolian Ogbu with Congresswoman Sharice Davids (left) at the Young Women to Watch Awards.

Competing at Running Start’s Young Women to Watch Awards was an inspiring experience. As a finalist for Running Start’s #ILookLikeAPolitician contest, I felt unwavering support at the event. I had just finished my speech and not only was I congratulated by Congresswoman Lauren Underwood for my leadership, but Congresswoman Sharice Davids even asked for a picture with me! Congresswoman Jahana Hayes came up to me and gave me an incredible pep talk saying that she couldn’t wait to see me in the halls of Congress and several other women mentioned their excitement for me being on a presidential ticket one day. Hearing all of these political leaders speak these moments into existence had me on cloud nine.

As Running Start’s newly elected #ILookLikeAPolitician Ambassador, I am excited to carry on the mission of empowering young women across the country to help them know that they have what it takes to be a politician. I am particularly proud to represent people like me: first-generation kids and Black women, to help them see that their voice matters and that they were born to make an impact.

Yolian Ogbu (center) on stage with last year’s #ILookLikeAPolitician Ambassador, Ewurama Appiagyei-Dankah (left) and Running Start CEO & Founder, Susannah Wellford (right).