Born and raised in Richmond to Yemeni-American immigrant parents, 26-year old Hossain has a big dream in life: level the education landscape for low-income communities. It “developed gradually and fervently as I witnessed my fate drift farther and farther from those of my peers, as Making Waves carried me through and over the pitfalls of navigating an adolescence in a crime-laden, under-resourced Richmond,” says Hossain.
Last summer, Hossain made a big move to pursue this vision. But it’s been his collective experience to date that prepared him to make this step.
Hossain, a member of the 7th Wave and graduate of UCLA, went to work at Google after graduation. Most recently, he was a Partnerships Manager for mobile app clients, helping them leverage Google tools to grow their user base. Hossain didn’t just go to Google for the free food (although he enjoyed that too). “My intention was always to enter the private sector and learn as much as I can. I think the for-profit world is the most well-resourced and supported environment for a fresh college graduate without a developed skill set. I wanted to learn, grow my network, gain resources and skills, and leverage that towards something I’m personally passionate about,” he says.
After a few years at the Googleplex, he was ready to commit to pursuing his passion for education. “Google is a big place. I learned a lot, but it was a challenge to feel like I was having a direct impact all the time given its massive scale,” says Hossain. “It’s easy to think that what you’ve accomplished is replicable at a company like this, without realizing the resources you have at your disposal…I really believe there’s a part of me—a gritty hardworking innovative part that I can’t access unless I’m under pressure, in an ambiguous space where I have to demand every ounce of effort I can. It comes with fear and anxiety and apprehension. But [that’s what happens] in moments that I’ve felt most alive, doing what I feel I’m meant to do.”
Last summer, Hossain moved to Queens to pursue that second dream. He participated in the Education Pioneers Fellowship with NYC Kids Rise, a nonprofit working to make attending and graduating from college more achievable for all NYC public school students. Through the fellowship, Hossain worked with NYC Kids Rise to design and scale strategic elements of their family engagement strategy program. “One thing they’re facing now is how to engage families in a sustainable way. How do you empower families to believe that college is a possibility for their child?” says Hossain. “They’re working through a lot of problems and want someone who has a strategic and operational background. It’s like a startup, with public support.”
The move to Queens represented a big step for Hossain. “I’ve lived in California my whole life. My family is here. I’m going rogue—a lot of Yemenis never leave the nest. Even going to LA for college took a lot of convincing with my mom. For me to go to NY is a bigger jump. Ultimately, I won’t do anything my mom doesn’t approve of. She lives in Richmond, and my brother and I support the family,” says Hossain. “I’m at a place in my life where I can take risks and try different things in my careers. I can be open. I intend to follow my intrigue.”
Hossain is grateful to his CAP coaches for helping him follow his intrigue early on. “CAP helped me realize that my purpose, beyond the enabling of one low-income student to gain access to a quality education, was to recognize, identify, and work towards the rectification of discrepancies in access. CAP helped me realize that the world is malleable with soft edges, and we have a responsibility to wrestle for its formation—a form that represents people like me,” says Hossain.
Now, Hossain is looking ahead to his journey in education. “I know education is something I’m passionate about. My experience at Making Waves informed that passion. In comparison with people I grew up around, my trajectory was totally up to circumstance. That has a way of humbling you—we aren’t equal opportunity in the way we want to believe we are,” says Hossain. “A mentor at Google told me that you know you’ve identified the right mission when the solution is likely to outlive you. [When I consider whether] education in general will be equitable in my lifetime—it’s unlikely, and that means I’ve identified an audacious enough goal.” Hossain is back in the Bay Area, living in Richmond, and working with a start-up that believes it can revolutionize how we think about education and learning.