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Name: Sami Hamed

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Current Job/City: Congressional District Aide for Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-7), Tucson, Arizona

CHCI Program(s)/Year(s) & Placement(s): CHCI Intern, 2000 and CHCI Fellow, 2002-2003

1. What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program(s)?

While at CHCI during my fellowship, I was appointed by then Gov. Janet Napolitano to the Board of Directors of the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB), a state agency/K-12 educational institution that educates children who are blind or deaf. I served on the ASDB Board from 2003 to 2009. Since I finished the Fellowship Program, I returned to Tucson to work in Congressman Grijalva’s district office, doing constituent service work and outreach.

2. What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and development as a leader?

CHCI taught me to work with others of various backgrounds, views and perspectives, but at the end, whatever I work on, I try to accomplish the goal or project in a professional and thoughtful manner; whether it is assisting constituents or my nieces and nephews. CHCI allowed me to walk through a door that was not open to many previously. Being a legally blind person, I was able to persevere in an environment where not too many persons with disabilities were involved in learning about policy in Washington, D.C. With this, I helped break a barrier for Latinos with disabilities.

Since my time at CHCI, other Latinos with disabilities completed CHCI programs. For me, I find that rewarding to know that no matter what our personal characteristics, we can be equal to our peers within the CHCI programs. In addition, CHCI taught me that no matter the measurement of my impact, I can at least listen to all sides on any given issue and at least guarantee them that I will hear all points of view.

3. How have you stayed engaged in community service?

I have stayed engaged by serving on community boards and committees. I currently serve on the City of Tucson’s Transit Task Force and the City of Tucson’s Transportation Advisory Committee. I also volunteer at a small claims civil hearing office for the Pima County Justice Court. I am currently the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona’s Tucson Chapter, a blind consumer rights group.

4. What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants?

Learn as much as possible, seek a mentor to whom you feel that you can learn a lot from about your choice of profession and about the experiences that life brings your way. Always ask questions and be willing to take on challenges that are beyond your comfort zone. And, if you are thinking about a future career in public service (local, state, federal government or elective office), being in D.C. is the best place to get knowledge and training. Our national capitol plays a fundamental role in our daily lives in big and small ways. I also recommend befriending members of your internship or fellowship class. To this day, I’m friends with members of my internship and fellowship classes and we still talk and visit regularly.

5. Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

I am currently a candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives. If I am elected, I see myself serving in Phoenix at the Arizona Legislature, representing the people of Arizona.