2018, Honors College
As a 17-year-old high school senior, Global Affairs and Conflict Analysis major Donna Imadi developed an AP government class project that targeted issues in her local community. A year later as a freshman in Mason’s Honors College, Imadi brought her idea to life: the InvestinYOUth Mentorship Program.
As CEO and founder of InvestinYOUth, Imadi is making a difference for underfunded youth in Fairfax County, selflessly striving to increase graduation rates and address disparities in our education system.
“InvestinYOUth inspires people to take tangible action to impact the lives of those most in need within [our] immediate region,” explains Imadi, who is also majoring in International Conflict Analysis & Resolution. Her social entrepreneurship program provides free mentoring and tutoring to students facing socioeconomic and linguistic barriers.
“We strive to emulate the power of an individual to chart out the path before them, [regardless of] age, ethnicity, gender,” says Imadi, a long-time lacrosse player.
Imadi grew passionate about public service as a high schooler when she lived in a rural area of Virginia. Moving from a rural region to suburban Hayfield Secondary School, Imadi identified gaps in resources between in-state public education systems. Particularly, she recognized challenges facing under-resourced students across the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) system. She points out that one FCPS school’s 60 percent drop-out rate fueled her desire to make an impact.
“InvestinYOUth [is] a resource in a time of immense demographic change and underfunding in public education,” shares Imadi, who Global Affairs concentration is global governance. She applies international perspectives on education to inform improvements to InvestinYOUth.
When she was a freshman in Honors 110, Imadi researched the impact of demographic change and suburban poverty trends on social programming resources in local school systems. Imadi found that funding allocations did not adequately meet the needs of population changes. She also discovered that students who have limited skills in English face greater vulnerability to poverty and inequity. Imadi used her Honors College research to improve InvestinYOUth’s social services.
Leading InvestinYOUth has strengthened Imadi’s understanding of organizational, business and government sectors. A multi-faceted student-leader, Imadi applies what she has learned to her other involvements.
Imadi serves as President of the UNICEF Mason Campus Initiative, where she promotes equity for socioeconomically disadvantaged children and mothers in the local community and in the developing world. She also chairs the Roosevelt Network’s national policy student-led thinktank, helping implement progressive policies that benefit communities on campus, local, state and national scales.
On-campus leadership opportunities helped Imadi become the first Mason student to earn an International Affairs Fellowship through the Council of American Ambassadors, interning at the State Department for two summers.
“Through these experiences, I’ve grown in my understanding of how to turn a vision to action,” reflects Imadi, emphasizing that compassionate teamwork drives meaningful impacts. Imadi feels she has grown at Mason through collaborating with dedicated partners ranging from fellow students to diverse stakeholders like FCPS representatives.
According to Mason Spirit magazine, Imadi successfully pitched InvestinYOUth to the Fairfax County School Board, and again to the General Assembly. Forging these partnerships was worthwhile and rewarding for Imadi, especially during one of her toughest semesters.
Imadi balanced rigorous course loads with speaking before senators and school board members during her semester as a Global Politics Fellow on Mason’s Arlington Campus. “I found myself in overdrive, juggling a million and one things– this was difficult,” shares Imadi.
“But I thought of each day as a single step,” adds Imadi, who practices mindfulness to improve her resiliency amidst a hectic schedule. “Honor your opportunities by taking them day by day; be intentional in the present moment,” continues Imadi, on track to graduate early with two degrees this December.
Though set on pursuing a career in public service, Imadi is proactively spending her first year out of school immersed in a personal development opportunity. After graduation, Imadi plans to take a year refining and expanding her French and Arabic language skills through a yearlong intensive program abroad.
While learning languages abroad, Imadi plans to apply to law school, paving her way for careers in diplomacy, economics or international conflict.
“Always pursue your passion and purpose– the position will follow,” Imadi explains of her choice to pursue a career in international affairs. A music-lover and nature jogger, Imadi commits to personal growth through self-care, encouraging others to practice the same.
“The future is unknown, but in the present, you have full control in action,” says Imadi. “If you let your inspiration and passion drive you each day, you’ll look back and know your life was made for miracles.”
Original reporting by Jimmy O'Hara