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Meet Sahila Shah, business student and local activist

When Sahila Shah isn’t juggling her marketing classes at Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business, interning for companies like Wells Fargo and serving as president of Pacific’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Student Council (which she also founded), she is making a difference in the Stockton community in big ways. Last summer, she helped organize a Black Lives Matter for college students that over 1,000 people attended.

We caught up with Sahila to ask her a few questions about her experiences in activism and nonprofit work and what motivates her to give back to her community.

What inspired you to do community service here in Stockton?

Ever since the age of 16, I really wanted to give back to Stockton. I just had a really big passion for community service, involvement and leadership. I did very diverse projects in Stockton. I started from a nonprofit level, then government and City Hall.  

My passion really aligns with my identities. I have a very strong intersectional background. I’m a first-gen student. I’m a daughter of immigrants from Muslim parents. The hardships that I experienced because of my background really empowered me to be stronger, be resilient and to give back to the communities that nurtured me. 

Was there a project or experience that had a large impact on you over the course of your community work?

I think a significant experience that really opened my eyes was interning for Empowering Marginalized Asian Communities (EMAC for short). They selected me when I was in high school, so I was in their youth program. I learned a lot about the school-to-prison pipeline, the inequities present in Stockton, the Cleveland Elementary School shooting that occurred in Stockton — so much history that I never knew about until I joined their program.  

That opened my eyes to how I, as a Stocktonian, can make my city better, and it also led to why I chose to come to UOP specifically, since I wanted to stay local and contribute as much as possible.

Through EMAC, last year, virtually, I was their program intern. So now, instead of being on the youth level, I’m supervising the youth. I did a lot of projects for them. I organized workshops and activities and collected a lot of resources for them to look into, especially to enhance leadership. 

What are some of the most important things you learned through working with EMAC?

EMAC really opened my eyes to how I can be an activist, how I can give back as much as possible and be effective at it. And now in college, I feel like I’ve grown so much. I’ve had such a strong level of experiences. I know how to organize, how to collect people and how to make sure that we all come together to fight the injustice that’s present.  

EMAC is also a big reason why I was really motivated to organize a protest last year. If I wasn’t in EMAC, I wouldn’t have known about the basics of how to organize, how to scream your demands and get the attention that we need.

Tell us more about the protest you organized.

My friend and I organized a protest for Black Lives Matter after George Floyd’s very unfortunate death. We organized the second protest in the city. We had over 1,000 people come, and this was just a protest organized for college students.  

I helped a lot with the social media, so I helped tremendously with marketing. I was able to create a social media account, work on that, work on engagement and just get our voices out there. This was a very empowering experience for me.  

With COVID, we felt that in order to reach our audience, we had to go on social media and attract the younger audiences. As a fellow Gen Z, that helped a lot, because we were able to get the audience that we wanted and the attention that we needed to scream our demands.

As a business student, how does your work in the community inform how you approach marketing?

If you go on my LinkedIn and you look at my resume, my experiences are kind of everywhere. I do what I do because I just feel motivated to do it. My marketing and nonprofit work and my internships and my social activism, and then my corporate internship, all of these in the end aligned with my values.

In my future career, I want to work at a bigger tech company, because I feel like, in order to give back to my community, I need to attract the people that have the capacity to give back. I give back my time and I give back my passion, but I’m going to reach a bigger audience that can give back the capital that we need for our communities. That’s what I want to do with their marketing experience. I want to have a diverse background so that I know who to target and who to give back to.

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