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  • Ceema Samimi

    As a mixed-race, poor, queer, non-binary person, the odds that I would land where I have – not in jail, but in an advanced degree program (my third post-graduate degree) – were slim to none. I attended over 30 schools by the time I was 14 years old and never advanced past 10th grade. Like many young people, my school push out was only one consequence of many factors in my life, including a lack of support at home, traumatic experiences, abuse, and a childhood spent in poverty. Homelessness, health issues, violence, and interactions with law enforcement were all part of my lived experience before I was old enough to vote. 

    Education in the United States is to be free and compulsory - a promise of equal opportunity and access, and per research by the Pew Charitable Trust, education provides a doorway to upward mobility (Haskins, 2009). However, my lived experience, as well as my social work practice, have shown me that education is often inaccessible to young people from marginalized backgrounds. Witnessing young people being pushed out and excluded from school has always brought me immense concern. As a forensic social worker, advocating for clients to enter the “least restrictive environment” post-arrest was not enough. I knew that more could be done before a young person was disenfranchised from their school and that entry into the criminal justice system could be prevented entirely.

    My goal as an academic is to do research that is not only useful to the community, but that transforms systems (such as the educational system) into inclusive and loving environments. My research askes how youth-serving organizations and institutions uplift or take away power from young people. I want my work to be useful not only to those most impacted but to those who make decisions about how that impact happens. 


    Haskins, R. (2009). Promoting economic mobility by increasing postsecondary education. The Urban Institute. 



  • The Weight of Bricks Digital Story


  • The family

    My dog, Diamond.           My cat, Tribble.

  • My final year of school playlist


  • At the first Climb the Peak awards in 1996

  • With my Dad at John Jay graduation

  • I am From/Going Poem from InDIGI qual class

    I am from lockers that don’t lock

    From broken pencils broken dreams

             Keep it all inside

    I am from the days of East Colfax sunsets mountains looming cars zooming by

    Potlhole’d streets, neon lights gleaming, rain drying after the storm

    Backpacks and old socks, holy

    I am from all-night diner fries and unplanned library gatherings

             Getting caught in the rain

             Sick friends sleeping in bookstores

             Watching TV at the Greyhound station

    I am from case managers and volunteer teachers

             Sitting on the floor

             The most we can all hope for is a G.E.D.

    I am from community dinners and ground rules

    Stars passed out like gifts at Christmas

             For Ceema, for starting poetry night

             For Jason, who listened to me when I was going through a hard time

             For Mindy, who helped me fill out job applications

    From “practice safe sex” and “respect diversity”

             The slogans that weren’t just that

             The rules for the rule-less

    I am from downtown parks paved over for elitist convenience

             Trading street names for store names

             Being told to “move along”

    From getting sang awake in the morning by the overnight staff

                Joy and pain. Like sunshine and rain.

    I am from not knowing what to do

             Calling the cops and they tell you it’s not possible to make a report

             Wondering what it means to be “living independently”

             Friends on the couch ‘cuz I don’t wanna be alone

    My house has no pictures

    Nothing to remind me of the time before

    Just a brick with my name on it

    My name forever linked


    I am Going

    I am going to wide open spaces

    To circle sits and sacred waters

    To let it all out

    I am going to clean mountain air birds flying by

    Branches swaying, star light sparkling, rain starting in the dusk

    Woven cloth covering alters, holy

    I am going to coffee shop book clubs and random library encounters

    Laughing in the rain

    Old friends relaxing around the fire

    Dancing until we’re just too tired

    I am going to the place where

    I’ll be turning research on its head

    Hoping for the most I can possibly hope for

    I am going to let go and hold on

    Relationships are all that matter

    I am going to be the one with the backward ideas

    Indoctrinating minds with the truth of

    The fable of tradition

    The dependability of lore

    I am going to a room decorated

     With reminders of the time before

This portfolio last updated: 19-Jan-2022 10:09 AM