PHOENIX — In honor of National Voter Registration Day, the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has announced Ayesha Ahsan as the winner of the state’s inaugural John Lewis Youth Leadership Award.
First announced in May of this year, the award was created as an initiative by the National Association of Secretaries of State to honor the life and achievements of the late Congressman John Lewis and aims to inspire Americans by awarding a civic-minded young person in each state who exemplifies public service and advocacy for civil rights.
Ayesha Ahsan served as the Civic Engagement Chair for Arizona State University Changemaker Central and a Campus Ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, where she organized voter registration drives on campus, engaging thousands of students. She also collaborated on initiatives to institutionalize voter education practices through Sun Devil Athletics and ASU Housing.
Ayesha interned for ACLU of Arizona and the Alliance for Justice, which led to her writing her undergraduate honors thesis on the efforts of police funding on community safety. Her thesis won the 2021 Sanford School Barrett Thesis Award. She plans on furthering her passion into a career in civil rights law, which she will begin pursuing this fall as she starts her Juris Doctor degree.
An honorable mention goes to Blair Tarman, a member of the Chickasaw Nation who served in Arizona Tribal communities by protecting the right to vote though the Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Project during her time as a student at Arizona State University Indian Legal Clinic. Blair’s work has spanned across the 22 Tribes in Arizona, voters living on Tribal lands in Arizona, as well as Arizona’s urban population of Indigenous voters.
Last year, she led the effort to research and draft testimony to give before the United States Congress House Subcommittee on Administration on the barriers that Native Americans nationwide face when voting. During the 2020 general election, Blair volunteered for the Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Hotline and worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to extend voting hours on polling locations on the Navajo Nation that did not open on time.
“Congratulations to Ayesha and Blair, two individuals who have demonstrated their commitment to serving their communities,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said. “I want to thank them, along with all the nominees this year who also deserve recognition for their work.”