Career paths are often serendipitous adventures, and Ryan Ahari's (SCC '13) so far has been no exception. When he graduated from Canyon High School in 2010, he had an idea he wanted to eventually attend UCLA or UC San Diego and work toward a career in public service. He wanted to start at a community college close to home with a strong transfer record to the University of California. Santiago Canyon College (SCC) was a natural choice, both close to home and with a good transfer record.
In his first semester at SCC, Ryan found his way to the Student Life and Leadership Office, where he was selected to be the Senator of Campus Development for the Associated Student Government (ASG). He spent two years in the position, advocating for campus improvements on behalf of students. In May 2012, he won the Student Trustee seat on the Rancho Santiago Community College District board; he served as a trustee from August 2012 to June 2013.
“My mom was so proud of everything I was doing at SCC. My family, originally from Iran, really values higher education as a gateway to a better life. But besides offering an excellent education and direct access to supportive faculty, SCC also gave me the chance to participate in programs that really helped hone my leadership and advocacy skills. So many students at SCC didn't have the privilege of time to serve in ASG or other leadership roles. As an ASG representative and student trustee, I felt really honored to be their sounding board and their voice, both on campus, at the district, and in Sacramento."
Ryan graduated with an Associate Arts degree in Political Science in June 2013, and transferred to UCLA. While attending the university, he lived in Glendale, which introduced him to the Armenian-American community that thrives there. Through Armenian friends and organizations, he became involved in the community, and was surprised to discover the many common threads that run through Armenian and Iranian cultures.
He graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 2016. An internship and fellowship with the Los Angeles office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) eventually led to his hiring as a policy analyst in the organization's Washington, D.C. office, where he engaged in policy analysis and Capitol Hill advocacy on behalf of Muslim Americans. Later, he jumped into the House of Representatives where he worked for two different congressional offices. He also ended up working on a Congressional campaign in California's central valley in 2018. At the same time as he was doing all of this, he began in earnest to apply for the Peace Corps, with the hope of a posting in Armenia. His plan offered to satisfy his interest in public service and his curiosity about Armenia. Originally, he was posted to Botswana as an HIV health volunteer, then when that fell through, to Ghana. That assignment also fell through, but in 2018 Ryan was finally offered a desired posting in Armenia.
He arrived in a picturesque corner of east central Armenia bordering Lake Sevan National Park in March 2019, with functional Armenian language skills and a strong desire to make a difference. He is currently among 70 volunteers serving in the area who focus on English teaching and community business, workforce, and youth development. Among Ryan's many duties is working with youth in the area to build their English language, as well as job training and job search skills. Concurrently, he works on business development projects, including working with tour operators in Yerevan (Armenia's capital) and local businesses to build a stronger tourism and eco-tourism industry in the region.
“My three years at SCC, working in ASG and as a student trustee, really helped me refine my general worldview that civic engagement, public service, political activism, and advocacy are so important if we want to improve our community for the benefit of all. My years at SCC also helped me acquire the tools I needed to put my worldview into practice and become an effective advocate for positive change. My current assignment in Armenia is an opportunity to continue my career focused on making our world a better place to live in."