When Rukayat Muse-Ariyoh, 16, campaigned for the county board of education’s student member seat, she wanted to make sure student voters would remember her name.
After a presentation on her goals, she gave the Prince George’s Regional Association of Student Government — the student body that elects the student member of the Prince George’s County Board of Education — a test.
“I asked them, ‘How do you spell my name?’ because that’s what everyone always asks me,” said Muse-Ariyoh, a senior at Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale.
Muse-Ariyoh won the election. She was sworn in as the student board member Aug. 14 at the Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.
Her term runs until the end of June 2014.
“[I wanted] to make sure that the students’ voices are being heard on the board,” she said. “Right now, I want to go in and see how the board functions before I set forth the platform I want to follow.”
Muse-Ariyoh is president of her school’s Muslim Student Association and is the second Muslim student to hold the board seat. Her predecessor, Shabnam Ahmed, a Bowie High graduate, was the first Muslim student board member.
Richard Moody, the county school system supervisor for student affairs, said he’s seen an increase in diversity in the Maryland Student Government Association over the past decade.
Moody, an adviser to the Prince George’s Regional Association of Student Government and to the student board member, said the visibility of Muse-Ariyoh and Ahmed might encourage other Muslim students to run for school office, and is a sign of the degree Prince George’s County accepts Muslim students.
“Honestly, I don’t think the students really care about other students’ religion one way or another,” Moody said.
A lifelong Upper Marlboro resident, Muse-Ariyoh is the fourth member of her family to attend Flowers. She is enrolled in the Science and Technology academy at the school and hopes to pursue chemical engineering in college. Her GPA is 3.88.
“Rukayat is a conscientious and invested student,” said Flowers Principal Gorman Brown. “Her academic record and commitment to becoming an advocate for her constituents is to be commended.”
Muse-Ariyoh’s initial foray into elected office began during her sophomore year, when she was elected treasurer for Flowers’ Class of 2014.
“I hope to become a better leader, so that when I graduate college, I will have the foundation I need to run a successful business or govern a large amount of people,” she said.
Her father, Kamordeen Muse-Ariyoh, said the added responsibility won’t affect her schoolwork.
“We know she will be able to do it, because everything she has ever embarked on she has excelled at,” he said. “It’s a commendable thing she has committed to, in terms of championing the cause of other students.”
Moody said Muse-Ariyoh has shown that she takes her responsibilities seriously, and is not simply looking for something to add to her résumé.
“She has a seriousness of purpose that I admire,” he said. “I think she is really, really dedicated to speaking on behalf of students.”