Taiba Sultana, political science major at Northampton Community College (NCC), has the motivation and drive to make a difference in her community for generations to come if given the opportunity. Now, as she runs for an Easton City Council seat in 2021 and with her work with the PA State Board of Education, she’s on track to achieve that goal.
As an immigrant from Pakistan, Sultana came to the United States when she was a teenager to marry and build a family. However, she faced an enormous obstacle when, with three children and one on the way, Sultana found herself homeless due to domestic abuse.
“It was difficult for me to get into housing because of my color. I was always being put at the end of the line. People got housing before me even though I had children with me.” She lived in public housing for a few years and worked as a special education aide, saved money, bought a car, and eventually, she bought a home in Easton to settle down.
Out of Sultana’s experiences grew a passion for enacting social and civic change, which motivated her to enroll at NCC as a political science major. Once a student at the college, she was a student member of the Disciplinary Committee at NCC and held the role of Vice President of Student Government. “I want to give back to my institution and community,” she says.
Sultana heard about the opportunity to become a student representative on the PA State Board of Education through the staff at NCC and President Mark Erickson. She seized the opportunity.
“The State Board of Education incorporates student representation in a non-voting capacity,” according to pa.gov, and students must “attend board meetings, advise and consult with the board, and adhere to board regulations.” After applying for the position, she was appointed in 2020.
As a member of the Board, Taiba is helping to develop an overall plan for higher education. “A master plan is developed every 10 years. It addresses diversity, equality, affordability, accessibility, budget…everything. It will be passed in January 2022 more than likely, and I’m so honored to be a part of it.”
Sultana also serves on the PA College Textbook Policies Advisory Committee. This committee is tasked with developing recommendations related to affordability, quality, and accessibility of college education course materials for public colleges.
“My personal desire is to develop the public education policy based on the best interest of the public and the young people. Having worked with students with special needs, I felt there was an achievement gap that needed to be addressed.” With six children, all school age, including one heading to NCC, she has a vested interest in maintaining the integrity of education.
Education isn’t the only thing Sultana is fighting to improve. She has been a political activist since 2008, organizing rallies on racial inequality. Sultana is the founder of the Asian Americans of Lehigh Valley organization. She’s also the Vice Chair of the Northampton County Democratic Party, a member of the Easton Democratic Committee and volunteers with the American Cancer Society. “Through all I do, I see the system very closely.”
Sultana is no stranger to the world of politics. She ran for Mayor of Easton in 2019, and in 2017, she ran for Easton City Council and lost the primaries against a 20-year incumbent and long-standing opponent.
This year, she decided to run again, and won the primaries. If Sultana wins the election on November 2, she will be the first woman of color, immigrant, Asian and Muslim to serve in that position, making history.
“In a time of national uncertainty, we should be strong locally. We can’t sit back and depend on others to make decisions for us. We should be a part of making decisions and policies that are connected to the health of our nation with a strong focus on community,” Sultana believes.
Sultana wants to focus on Easton’s unsheltered population and affordable housing, working class families, economic justice, racial inequality, safety in neighborhoods and more.
“All of these issues demand our best effort, and I represent the students, mothers, women and people of color. I ensure that others have a voice.”
After graduating, Sultana would like study law and continue her journey in politics and seeking justice for all.