Jesan Islam, a senior at Cesar Chavez High School, was named the City of Phoenix 2014 Outstanding Young Man of the Year at a luncheon, May 8 at Arizona Country Club.
Six other Phoenix Union students were among the 16 students named Outstanding Young Men and Women for each of the eight city council districts, and another student won an Honorary Award. The program is presented by the City of Phoenix Youth and Education Commission.
Islam, representing District 7 could not be at the event because of Advanced Placement exams, but last year’s Outstanding Young Woman, Genesis Miranda-Soto, from neighboring Betty Fairfax High School, accepted the award, which included a $1,000 scholarship.
The winners were selected for outstanding community service and commitment to excellence in all areas of their lives.
Other Phoenix Union Outstanding Young Women/Men nominees are District 3: Gina Jozef, North High; District 4: Thy Tran, Central and David Gonzales, Suns-Diamondbacks; District 5:Michael Pineda, North; District 7: Jovanna Figueroa, Metro Tech and District 8: Sydney McDowell, North. Xavier Zeigler of South Mountain and District 7 won an Honorary Award.
Jesan (pronounced Jee-sahn) Islam certainly fits the label of outstanding. With a weighted 4.5 grade point average, and entering Yale in the fall, he is fulfilling the American Dream his father set out to find, when his family emigrated from Bangladesh when Jesan was just five months old.
“My parents sacrificed for their children. My father came to this country with $500 in his pocket. Though educated, he had to work two jobs, day and night. He was a gas station attendant and a clerk. That is how I developed my work ethic. But as hard as he worked, he always had time for me. Every day, for one hour between jobs, I called it my ‘happy hour,’” Islam said.
Islam takes nothing for granted. His final year of high school consists of a full schedule of Advanced Placement courses in Environmental Science, U.S. Government and Politics, Calculus, French, English Literature and Composition and Art History. He is the president of the French Club, an active member of the National Honor Society, competed in Academic Decathlon and is a peer tutor, working with juniors and seniors who have not yet passed the graduation-required AIMS Exams. He speaks four languages, including French, Hindi and Bengali. Outside of school, he is a teen volunteer at Hospice of the Valley, serves on the City of Phoenix Youth and Education Commission, is a juror and judge for the county’s Teen Court, and was the only high school intern in the City Prosecutor’s office, working with law school students.
“I want to be a model for those, like me, who come from low income families. I want to help others to not fall under the pressures around them, and take advantage of the opportunities. I want to go from place to place and talk to young kids, be a spokesperson and let them know that if they work hard enough, they can achieve the American Dream. I want to combat those ideas that children from poor families can’t succeed.”
Islam was accepted into ASU’s Barrett Honors College, qualified for the Barack Obama scholarship, Wildcat Excellence Award at Univ. of Arizona and turned down an offer to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He intends to go to law school, hopefully at Yale “where so many world leaders have come from,” and return to Phoenix to practice law.