Be Bold, Humble, and Resilient in Pursuit of Your Passions

Kazi Tejwar


Kazi TejwarKazi Tejwar: Be Bold, Humble, and Resilient in Pursuit of Your Passions

Kazi Tejwar’s commitment to public service began when he was just six years old. A child of Bengali immigrants, Tejwar and his family experienced the devastating impact of the 2008 financial crash followed that same year by the hope and inspiration of Barack Obama’s ascendance to the presidency. Since then, his interest in policy and his passion for serving his community has only grown. As a double major in political science and sociology, Tejwar has interned for NYPIRG, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, and Amnesty International USA, and he was elected vice president of the student government at CCNY. His proudest accomplishment as VP is to have spearheaded the effort to open CCNY as an early voting site, thereby expanding voter access in Harlem as a direct rebuke of the attacks on voting rights nationwide. Tejwar’s advice to future students is to be courageous in the pursuit of their passions, reach out to Colin Powell School staff and professors for help, and be bold, humble, and resilient — words he says describe the school itself.

Please share a little about your background — what’s your story?   
I was born and raised in Flatbush, and I’m a product of two Bengali immigrants. I was six when the 2008 financial crash happened, and it served as a major financial setback for my family. My earliest experience with politics was when Barack Obama became President that year, and I was deeply inspired by who he was and his message of hope and change during such a tumultuous time. Growing up, I’ve become more passionate about being involved with public service and helping people due to my early childhood experiences. I’ve been involved with progressive causes since high school. First I served as a volunteer for the Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign. I came to CCNY on Excelsior, and I’ve been fortunate enough to intern for NYPIRG, work in Student Government, advocate for voting rights, be a Colin Powell fellow, and now organize with Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) and intern for Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.  
What is your passion or purpose behind your studies at CCNY?
My passion has always been to help people, and I’ve had an interest in politics for the longest time. I originally started off my freshman year as a political science major, and it wasn’t until the spring semester of that year that I decided to take on sociology as well. My Sociology 101 professor at the time, Gwen Dordick, was always encouraging during office hours, and she helped me realize that sociology was a good fit for me because I’m a policy-oriented person. I try to use my studies to match my values as a person, to help find solutions to problems and seek answers that can sometimes be uncomfortable to know.
Where are you in your career? How has the Colin Powell School helped you along the way?

I’m currently a community organizing coordinator for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), and I intern for Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the new Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives. I genuinely don’t think I’d be here right now if it weren’t for the Colin Powell School and everyone who works there. In college, I first started off by interning and organizing with NYPIRG, but I wouldn’t have been able to find this internship if I had not gone to Professor Karen Struening, the internship coordinator for the Political Science Department, and asked for help. I later got involved with Student Government, where I eventually became Vice President of Campus Affairs, and the Colin Powell School helped me with a lot of on-campus initiatives that I was spearheading, like the John Lewis Initiative to open the campus as an early voting site, and increasing student and civic engagement as a whole.
I recently became a Colin Powell fellow in Leadership and Public Service, and that has opened a million doors for me. I was connected with folks at Amnesty International because of guest speakers at the seminars. I took the chance of approaching one of the speakers who worked for Amnesty. I really appreciate Debbie Cheng for organizing these events and for working so hard to present these opportunities. I landed my internship with Hakeem Jeffries because of her and Dally Matos’s help in the process, and I can say right now that I’m really having the best experience I can get because of the Colin Powell staff. A huge shout out to the Office of Student Success team for working so hard to help us chase opportunities!
What are your post-graduation plans? 
After graduation, I hope to stay involved with nonprofit work dedicated to addressing problems that are affecting our communities, and I want to get more involved in the policy arena — because it all comes down to policy. I hope that I can end up going to law school, but I think it’s best to take some time off and get more experience with public service work. 
Please share a significant memory and/or accomplishment from your time at CCNY. 
My proudest accomplishment during my time at City College was launching the John Lewis Initiative to open campus up as an early voting site. Voting rights is an issue that I am deeply passionate about, and I couldn’t take what was happening after the 2020 election, where the big lie was running rampant like wildfire and states were passing voter suppression laws. That’s why I decided to act and launch the John Lewis Initiative. Harlem, for a long time, has had one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the city. With everything else going on around the country on this issue, I thought that we should follow suit with other campuses in the city and open ours up as an early voting site. As Vice President of Campus Affairs last year, I launched the John Lewis Initiative, and I worked with the school’s administration and the Manhattan Board of Elections (BOE) to see that get done. I’m grateful for President Boudreau, and the entire school administration, for showing support on the issue because it sent a message that students, faculty, and administration can work together on pressing issues — big or small. For months, we were able to maintain a triangular line of communication between us, the administration, and the Manhattan BOE to see us officially become an early voting site by the June 2022 primaries. Because of our work, City College is now an official early voting site, where 3,000 residents and Harlem now have easier access to vote. Don’t get me wrong: The fight isn’t over yet. States are still passing voter suppression laws, and unless Congress passes the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act with the Freedom to Vote Act, in tandem, we’re left to save our democracy on our own.  
Do you have any advice you could give to current or future students?

Show up, do the work, and never give up. It’s important for all of us to follow our passions, no matter what they may be, so always try to take advantage of the opportunities given to you to go on the route you want to be on. Be prepared to take risks and chances, and though some things might not go according to plan, you come back from those situations stronger and more resilient with better opportunities waiting for you. We're always going to have the moments where we feel defeated, but what matters most out of anything is how we carry ourselves, grow into better people, and learn how we can be the best version of ourselves.

You can be who you want to be right now, and you can start from the simplest things. Go start a conversation with someone about the amazing ideas you have. Go to the Office Hours for classes that interest you and find ways to get involved in that interest. Go talk to someone from the Office of Student Success about your career goals and seek help. Don’t be afraid to step into the fire and always know your worth as a person. You can do it! 

How would you describe CPS in three words? 

Strong, humble, and resilient. Those three words represent the values of this school — from students to faculty — and it perfectly represents the silver lining in all our stories. If you talk to anyone in the Colin Powell School community, you will hear stories that inspire you. We are a community of humble beginnings, and we were not born with a silver spoon in our mouth; each one of us has struggled in the past, and we have all come back stronger in the end. We use our experiences to channel the value of being my brother's keeper to look out for one another, and that’s something you can’t find anywhere else.

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