EDUCATION: Master in Public Policy | George Washington Uni
WORK: Founder & President | Society of Egyptian American Professionals
Prior to moving to the United States in 2002, Yomna Sarhan grew up in Cairo, Egypt and witnessed Egypt’s severe social inequality on a daily basis. On her way to school, she saw children her age selling tissues at traffic stops. When she was out with her family, saw girls her age working as maids and taking care of children only a few years younger. Yomna realized that she had to act as a voice for change and quickly took on leadership roles once she moved to the United States.
During high school she began devoting much of her time to volunteer efforts, ranging from: assisting at the local library; coordinating events at a senior citizens’ center; and tutoring students in math and science. She was particularly passionate about tutoring and focused her efforts to working with new international students who were still learning English. In addition, she developed sports, cultural, and social activities to provide them with an opportunity to engage with other students. During her senior year of high school, Yomna helped start an online magazine with other African students dedicated to sharing stories from youth all over the continent.
In 2011, as a freshman at Georgetown University, Yomna became active in the Arab Spring protests and sought to achieve equal rights and opportunities for all citizens. She endeavored to create a venue for youth to discuss their role in social change, and so she organized several conferences for and by youth focused on the Arab Spring. These conferences attracted the attention of Al-Jazeera and other news outlets which identified her as a young Arab-American leader in the community. She then became president of the Arab Student Organization at Georgetown and raised over $6,000 in fundraisers for orphans and at-risk children in developing countries.
Her leadership and activism permeated Yomna’s academic, extracurricular, and professional endeavors. At Georgetown University, Yomna pursued a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service, with a major in International Politics and a minor in African Studies. She sought to devise solutions for socioeconomic problems in the continent and conducted research on ecotourism in East Africa as a potential stimulus for economic growth.
To further her passion for socioeconomic development and youth empowerment, in 2011 Yomna worked as a Program Coordinator at the American University of Cairo for a youth leadership initiative. The Leadership in Education and Development (LEAD) Program is a joint USAID-Egyptian Ministry of Education project aimed at bridging the social inequality gap amongst Egyptians and provide full scholarships to overachieving yet underprivileged students.
Following her cum laude graduation from Georgetown University in May 2014, Yomna worked as a communications associate at the Moroccan-American Center for Policy in Washington, D.C. She analyzed Morocco’s relations with its sub-Saharan neighbors as well as its socioeconomic development initiatives. In the fall of 2014, Yomna interned with the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service in New York. During her work with the UN, she coordinated with over 60 NGOs and dozens of civil society leaders, including many in Africa, to help bring their voices to the UN and highlight their important work. She also participated in the Climate Change Summit and helped organize a Microsoft-UN Data Revolution Conference to improve data analysis in international development. Furthermore, Yomna assisted in organizing the EATx Conference at the UN Headquarters which focused on creating sustainable diets for the global population.
Due to the success of her academic and professional endeavors in the field of public service and international development, Yomna has been selected to participate in numerous conferences within the United States and around the world. In February 2014, she represented Georgetown University at the Wheatley International Affairs Conference in Aspen Grove, Utah. Additionally, in April 2014 she was selected as part of the US delegation to the USA-Maghreb Youth Debates Conference in Morocco, which brought together delegates from five African nations. In November 2014, she was selected to participate in the International Road Federation Asia Congress in Bali, Indonesia, which focused on the socioeconomic development of Southeast Asia through improved transport infrastructure.
Beginning in February 2015, Yomna has been in the process of creating a professional society for the advancement of Egyptian-Americans. The Society of Egyptian-American Professionals, as it is called, aims to mobilize and connect the Egyptian diaspora in the US and promote the professional development of Egyptian Americans.
Yomna currently works as a Program Associate in the Communications & Society Program of the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. She examines the role of digital technology and communications policy on socioeconomic development and organizes conferences to bring together members of the private sector, government, and civil society. She will begin her Master of Public Policy in the fall of 2015 at the George Washington University. Concentrating in international development, Yomna hopes to find new solutions to socioeconomic issues in Africa.