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Monday, February 25, 2019

School board candidate Arbrar Omeish vows to fight for equity for all students

Arbrar Omeish addresses the crowd at her campaign kickoff.
Abrar Omeish, a candidate for an at-large position on the Fairfax County School Board, plans to focus on equity and inclusion.

At her campaign kickoff event Feb. 24, Omeish said she wants to ensure that “every kid, regardless of where they live in this county, has equal access to quality schools.”


Among the many elected officials and candidates at the Omeish event were Steve Descano, who's running for Commonwealth's Attorney, and Mason school board candidate Ricardy Anderson. 
At 24 years old, Omeish would be the youngest-ever member of the county’s school board. Just about her entire campaign team is made up of high school students. About 10 of them spoke out in support of Omeish at the campaign event, along with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.

The students on her team got to know Omeish through GIVE Youth, a nonprofit she founded in 2010 that arranges for high school students to volunteer as tutors and mentors for lower-income children, or through the anti-bullying campaign she developed.

After graduating from Robinson Secondary School, Omeish earned two bachelor’s degrees from Yale University – in political science and Middle Eastern studies.

Providence school board member Dalia Palchik (left) is running for the Board of Supervisors, and Karl Frisch (right) is running for the Providence seat on the school board.
Omeish is seeking an endorsement from the Fairfax County Democratic Committee for the at-large seat on the board currently held by Ryan McElveen, who is running for chair of the Board of Supervisors. Rachna Sizemore Heizer, a college professor and advocate for students with special needs, is also seeking the Democratic endorsement for the at-large seat.

The other two at-large school board members, Ilryong Moon and Karen Keys-Gamarra, are running for re-election.

At her campaign event, Omeish told an overflow crowd that the value of community service she learned from her parents and her own experiences as the victim of bullies “made me intolerant to the injustice in this community.”

“That made me believe the confidence a child has has such an impact in how far they can go. That’s something I want to fight for and preserve in every kid,” she said.

Jessica Swanson, with baby Ben, is running for the Mason seat on the school board.
Omeish vows to be an advocate for the underprivileged children who don’t have enough food in their homes and whose parents are not there for them because they’re working two or three jobs. All kids have the potential to do something great, she says. “Lack of money is not going to be a barrier to success.”

She would also be an advocate for mental health and called for more counselors and mental health peer groups in schools. “Just a listening ear, a caring heart can change the trajectory of a student that feels alone and isolated,” she said.

To pay for her proposals, Omeish would seek more public-private partnerships and more support from corporations.

“We live in a community that offers so much,” she said. “We’re proud of our diversity. We have the top high schools in the country. We want to make sure the brilliance that represents is the case for every student.”

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