Few teenagers can say they have spoken in front of the United Nations, or that they have contacts like Democratic House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, but Kaleab Jegol is no average teenager.
Through his work in Women’s March Youth and starting his own nonprofit, Education for Ethiopia, Jegol has had notable success at an early age. From meeting activists like Linda Sarsour and Yara Shahidi, he has helped create a national movement.
Through Jegol’s latest project of being the lead for Power to the Polls, a voting initiative to register one million people prior to election day, he is collaborating with other young activists to pave the way for change.
Still, when thinking about what his end goal for change is, he paused. A full 30 seconds passed before his eyes lit up as he said, “I want to leave this world seeing a tangible, legislative change in how women and girls are treated in this world and for every kid to grow up feeling empowered.”
His experience in suburban Ohio complicated his identity, and experiencing a life as a minority made him appreciate his diversity even more.
“By existing, I am resisting a world that doesn’t want me to exist,” Jegol said.
Much of Jegol’s identity is impacted by his status as an immigrant. When he came to America at a young age, he was compelled to participate in civic engagement for he said the system in Ethiopia does not value the same form of democracy.
“My individual identity as an immigrant is not just me,” Jegol said. “We are a collective community and we play into making our communities safer and making schools better.”
Through his passion for education and his pride as an Ethiopian, his nonprofit aims to “strengthen schools with supplies and fundraising” according to Education For Ethiopia’s website.
His friend, Jillian Finkel, a first-year in political science, laughed as she reminisced upon how they both won the senior superlative at Mason High School, in Mason, Ohio, for “most likely to be president,” then acknowledging the fact that because of his immigrant status, Jegol constitutionally cannot.
“The power of your own background and your own story is very impactful and I think he has caught on to that,” Finkel said. “He speaks from personal experience as somebody who is an immigrant and how his family has come to live a better American dream.”
Three years ago, Jegol’s passion for civic engagement then transformed into becoming a youth activist by getting involved with Women’s March Youth, a subset of the organization which organizes the annual women’s marches nationwide. He was even one of 18 individuals to organize the national walkout day, where more than two million students nationwide walked out of their classrooms in protest of gun violence.
His role in this highly publicized national event was to serve as community outreach in black, brown and immigrant communities, while serving as a liaison between the Women’s March and March for our Lives.
“Working with Women’s March means working towards my liberation, my sisters’ liberation and everyone else who is oppressed and marginalized” Jegol said, adding that it is an “intersectional organization that believes in all of our liberation collectively.”
He is set to publish his first Op-Ed in the New York Times in a few weeks, among his other projects and activism.