Why Not You?
ASHC President, Achieve Graduate Plans for Career in Cybersecurity.
Mahad Dahir will be the first to tell you he didn’t choose Highline College, Highline chose him.
As the first Achieve student to be elected to the Associated Students of Highline College in 2022-23, it’s obvious to everyone who meets Dahir why that statement rings true. Whether he’s greeting you with a joke, sharing a meme or advocating for better student access, the 22-year-old has made a positive impact at Highline College during his yearlong term as ASHC president.
“As someone who is autistic I sometimes have trouble communicating with the people around me but it also empowers me to push for accountability when it comes to ensuring that all students with disabilities have the most equitable access points to all resources, including those at Highline,” Dahir said.
Some of those resources include those found through the Achieve program, a program Dahir has spent two years in intending to earn his Comprehensive Transition Certificate. Achieve is a comprehensive post-secondary transition program for students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The program includes credit and non-credit classes, intensive advising, involvement in campus life, community-based internships, and assistance with job placement.
“One individual that has been at the forefront of my success is my advisor Ellie Cassatt from the Achieve program,” he said. “ She saw my potential as a student that leads other students with disabilities and empowers them to do amazing things at the college.”
Through Achieve, Dahir also took a leadership class, a diverse perspectives course, a class on community responsibility and a capstone class, where he presented his capstone project –– a culmination of his achievements, personally and professionally.
Dahir’s studies were in conjunction with his regular duties as ASHC president. Throughout Dahir’s time as ASHC president, he served on the Policy Development Council, led ASHC meetings, met legislators at the state capital, spoke at Highline’s annual Legislative Breakfast and countless other events as well.
Although Dahir has a rich experience in advocacy work –– before he was president, he helped pass “Increasing language access in public schools” House Bill 1153 – 2021-22 in the Washington State Legislature –– this Burien resident has eyes on a different type of future.
Upon graduation from the Achieve program, Dahir plans on enrolling in classes for Highline’s Associate of Applied Science in Global Cybersecurity Investigations in fall 2023.
“Growing up, I was a lifelong technology user who is really passionate about how technology works and how it can really impact people both positively and negatively,” Dahir said. “So I feel like, as someone who is an avid technology person, I feel like it’s important for me to better understand not only how this technology works but also the different forms of it: Networking, cybersecurity, data science, coding and so on and so forth.”
Dahir said many community-based organizations often don’t invest enough in new technology, which can lead to security issues with viruses, trojans and other equipment issues.
And investing in oneself through education is also critical, he said.
“It’s important for people like me –– who’s autistic, a person of color in this country –– I feel like it’s important to continue investing in ourselves because if not us, then who? It’s like the old saying from Russell Wilson, ‘Why not you?’ You know?”
Dahir hopes to use his cybersecurity degree to one day start his own business and work for himself by providing equitable and affordable services to all.
Throughout Dahir’s time at Highline, he said his favorite part has been the culture of people working together to create an environment of empowerment and equity.
“I would like to first off thank god, my enormous family –– including my mother who made the trek to this country almost 30 years ago –– and everyone who was instrumental in my journey,” Dahir said. “From access services to The Center, even the people in between, because they were not only able to foster my own journey and accept me, but also push me to become more of an outgoing, engaging person. Because I don’t know what I would do without the people of Highline’s support, so a big ‘thank you’ to people who made me who I am today.”