Leilah Moeinzadeh – DiversityJobs Scholarship Finalist for August 2012

When it comes to social and environmental justice, I have a personal responsibility to represent those who are socially and politically underrepresented. Through majoring in Urban Studies, I have committed my life to understanding the theory behind urban issues and more importantly applying practice to that theory in order to contribute to radical societal change.

My decision to major in Urban Studies followed my experience as an employee for the City of San Jose. I worked for the Department of Parks and Recreation as a youth program coordinator and recreational leader. I worked in low-income neighborhoods in San Jose during a time of economic downturn. This resulted in great disinvestment of our city’s youth. I witnessed first-hand the struggle of vulnerable adolescents who were left without afterschool programs that would keep them away from neighborhood violence and peer pressure. The lack of creative space available for young people to express themselves in positive ways aggravated me. The financial decrease in programs that ultimately influence youth to contribute positively to society made me feel strongly about the need for urban change. I knew that a degree in Urban Studies would provide me with skills in city planning, environmental design, urban poverty reform, education, political economics and other subjects that would help me contribute to systemic change.

Through my job with the City of San Jose, I was more than just a recreational leader. I grew in my skills as a personal mentor to desperate youth. Many of the teens that I worked with felt comfortable with me because I could relate to them through my own experience as an adolescent. Like many of today’s youth, I was raised by a single mother in a low-income household. Because my mom was always working multiple jobs, her absence from the household led me to be very independent. As an adolescent with too much independence, I found myself involved in irresponsible situations. It has by personal experiences in addition to my professional experiences that have driven me academically. It is easy for me to understand why much of today’s youth struggle academically and the root of the problem stems from socio-economic inequalities. When I complete my undergraduate degree, I plan to continue my education in the field of urban studies at the graduate level. I have been motivated through my experience with these issues to contribute to reforming these inequalities through my achievement in higher level education.’s scholarship program for diversity and minority students is proud to announce Leilah Moeinzadeh as one of the seven finalists for its August 2012 application deadline. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.