By Bianca Macias
If you’ve ever felt the dreams you possess are out of your reach as a community college student, or as a student from a minority group, Saeed Ahmad’s heartening story just debunked any theory that suggested your doubts.
Ahmad, 22, was born into a proud Pakistani lineage and speaks his native language of Urdu as well as English. His mother’s side of the family is from Lahore, Pakistan, while his father, who attended Riverside City College for some time, is from Karachi, Pakistan, where Ahmad was born.
He immigrated to the United States at a very young age and grew up in Corona. With three associate degrees from Norco College, a bachelor in psychology from UCLA and an acceptance letter to Harvard Law School, he was actually the first in his family to academically achieve beyond the Community College level.
His toughest challenges stemmed from the arduous times that are attached to adolescence.
“Everybody goes through this,” he said. “Middle school and high school can be some of the toughest times while growing up, whether that’s due to bullying, name calling or hanging out with the wrong people.”
Lacking a crowd of like-minded individuals left Ahmad less goal oriented and unfocused. He juggled bad company with academics and high school wrestling, but admitted he had no concrete goals at the time.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there,” Ahmad said, admiring a quote he had seen in the past.
Ahmad grew from these challenges once he joined the mock trial team at Centennial High School in Corona. That was when he found an interest in law and realized his grades were not up to par for what he wanted out of his future. Despite his challenges, he disregarded any doubt that teachers and peers expressed about the Community College route when it came to pursuing law.
“One of my high school teachers said that ‘it makes sense that you’re going to Community College because you don’t have any goals, extracurriculars or aspirations,’ and I wanted to prove this man wrong,” Ahmad said.
He sought his dream by taking the high school equivalency exam as a junior so that he could enroll at Norco College. He was on a mission to prove his doubters wrong, but also to make a statement for Muslim and Pakistani people.
Ahmad searched for an idol in his field that he could demographically identify with, but found he would need to be the role model for Muslim and Pakistani people. This awareness fueled him in creating representation for his people in a highly competitive field.
While at Norco College, Ahmad effectively leveraged the semester’s worth of AP credits he earned in high school. He was able to balance extracurricular activities with his academics, an opportunity he found worthy of capitalizing on.
As a former student ambassador, Honors Program member and appointed president of the Pre-Law Society, he emphasized the importance of networking and extracurricular activities. Ahmad also highlighted that the small class sizes at Norco College made it easier to network.
Ahmad said Khalil Andacheh, a Norco College sociology instructor, was especially resourceful. They remain in touch. Ahmad encouraged students to build genuine relationships with instructors by taking advantage of office hours.
Being president of the Pre-Law Society at Norco College helped him develop his base through the use of LinkedIn. He learned marketing and networking skills through this program as “that guy” marketing student organizations through flyers, emails and word of mouth.
He became president of the Pre-Law Society at UCLA as well. Ahmad explained that his experience at Norco inspired him to expand the niche of the pre-law program at UCLA by combining it with business, fashion and sports and entertainment to hook people into events.
The transfer from Norco to UCLA brought a whole new level of competition for Ahmad. Apart from grades, student involvement was also a factor in acceptance, as was preparation for future experiences.
“Do the best you can to focus on your grades because they matter, especially if you have (graduate) school aspirations,” he said. “Go to every event hosted by your college possible. Be involved everywhere you can.”
Leadership is part of who Ahmad is. Aside from his Pre-Law Society presidencies, he was part of Kappa Sigma’s founding father class at UCLA, a fraternity whose goal was to end the negative stigma on fraternities through positive actions. He is also a part of the Forbes Under 30 Scholars Program.
Ahmad is now officially a future Harvard law student, thus fulfilling his goal of “repping the transfers.” He still has the voicemail of himself getting accepted into Harvard.
“When I go to Harvard, I’m going to be rocking my Norco College T-shirt,” he said.
His acceptance delighted his family and also attracted media attention. He is preparing for Harvard by gaining experience in sales at Louis Vuitton on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. He is also working on start ups, a consulting company and, most of all, networking with instructors and other incoming students. He is also focused on further improving his organization skills.
Ahmad is not yet 100% sure about his post-Harvard goals, but he knows he will be a lawyer. He is passionate about fashion, law and business, and is also considering politics. One thing he knows for sure, however, is that he wants to combat every negative stigma that he has faced.
“Whatever I’m doing, I want to say that I served as an inspiration and a beacon of light for Pakistani-Americans, Muslims, immigrants and Community College transfer students,” he said.
He also wants to “put Corona on the map.”
“When you have a dream and you work toward it with all of your effort and dedication, the universe rewards you with more blessings,” Ahmad said. “Go Mustangs!”