Minneapolis, MN — Abdirizak Diis believes in the power of education to change lives. Born in a refugee camp in Somalia, then evacuated to Kenya when he was young, he faced daunting challenges to complete his primary, secondary, and post-secondary education. He understands the unique needs of immigrant children in the U.S. who start school with little preparation and significant language barriers. An educator in Minneapolis Public Schools, he created the first Somali ethnic studies curriculum in the country. He believes that the voices of immigrant families must be elevated in the educational system to reduce inequities. To accelerate his ability to lead change, he will pursue advanced education in curriculum development, public policy, adaptive leadership, and coalition building. He will also learn from entities that have developed approaches that improve educational outcomes for marginalized students.
What has informed your approach to leading change in your community?
My approach has been informed by coming from a very poor family and not really getting the support that I needed, even though I did receive support from others and for that I am grateful. But I want to pay it back. This has been on my mind since I was little. I want to spend my life lifting up others who are in need.
If you were to write a memoir about your life, what would you title it?
Abdirizak Diis: A life filled with perseverance and hope.
What is your favorite quote or expression?
Do what you say.