In November, San Francisco native Aliya Chisti will find out the fate of her first city-wide campaign: a seat on the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) Board. If elected, Aliya, who is also an Aim High alumna and former teacher, will be the first Muslim woman elected to any office in San Francisco’s history.

Aliya has spent her life teaching and advocating for education practices and policies that are inclusive and accessible. But she never dreamed of holding public office—until she worked for fellow Aim High alumna Malia Cohen. (At the time, Malia was an elected member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. In 2018, she became president, and now serves on the State Board of Equalization.) “She knows about the Aim High magic!” laughed Aliya. “Malia is a powerhouse, and a strong woman of color in a leadership role. She was always pushing me to realize my own potential, always telling me to go speak in public, or to go give comment on her behalf.”

After working for Malia, Aliya was hired as the first person ever to oversee the Free City College Program, an initiative providing SF residents with free tuition to City College. In her new role, Aliya wanted to better understand how Free City was perceived by CCSF, so she began attending monthly board meetings.

“I became fascinated by the public comments, and quickly realized that I wanted to serve,” shared Chisti.

Aliya is running on a platform of change—one that will break cost barriers, invest in workforce development, ensure that students and teachers have a seat at the table, and build strong bridges between CCSF and the greater community. She has gained important endorsements, including from the local teacher’s union at City College, along with Member Malia Cohen, US Congressman Ro Khanna and and other elected officials on the SF Board of Supervisors.

For Aliya, this race is more than an election—it is a fight for an institution she cares deeply about, and an opportunity to encourage more women of color to run for office. “It’s really important for me to change who runs for office. I want other Muslim women, women of color, and young women to to know that they can do this too.”

To learn more about Aliya and her campaign for City College Board, please visit

Teaching at Aim High has been instrumental in my career. I saw students who looked like me and who had experienced the same struggles that I did. So, after graduating from Aim High, I could turn right around and play a role in supporting them through their own journey with the program.Aliya Chisti, Aim High Alumna and Former Teacher

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