Students in two Robbinsdale Area Schools classrooms had a special civics lesson Feb. 18 when U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar met with them virtually to discuss her work as a member of congress, her one-of-a-kind journey to Capitol Hill and other topics.
Scholars in Shannon Overdahl’s third grade class at Northport Elementary School, and those in Katie Huebsch’s afternoon government class at Cooper High School, met with the congresswoman in separate events.
Inspiring and educating students is at the core of Robbinsdale’s Unified District Vision, and Rep. Omar spoke about her journey to becoming one of the first female Muslim and Somali-Americans elected to the United States Congress. She also discussed a number of light-hearted topics as she fielded questions from students.
In Overdahl’s class, third grade students asked Rep. Omar about her favorite snack (hot Cheetos), favorite color (gold), if she had a dog (Teddy, a yellow lab puppy is a recent addition to her family) and what her favorite kind of cake is (cheesecake). One student even asked her if she enjoyed art, like drawing or painting.
“I have no artistic bone,” Rep. Omar joked with the third-graders. “My kids make fun of me -- I can’t even draw a stick person.”
She also discussed with Overdahl’s class about how she wanted to become an FBI agent when she was young, but had also dreamed of becoming a teacher. “I was raised by educators,” said Rep Omar. “I have so much respect for teachers, and I’m a mom of four, so I get how important it is for our kids to have a champion.”
Meanwhile, in Huebsch’s government class, Cooper students discussed with Rep. Omar what it is like being a member of Congress, how she manages her work-life balance, and why she decided to enter politics.
“I decided I wanted to run for office because I felt the people who were representing us didn’t feel the urgency to solve the problems affecting us,” she said. “Also, I wanted to change the face of who was fighting for progress.”
Rep. Omar, who is mother to three high schoolers and a third-grader, said she was raised to believe she deserved a seat at the table, and she likes knowing she’s passing that same lesson down to her own children. And as a person of compounding marginalized identities, she told Huebsch’s class -- pointing to her being black, an African-born refugee, Muslim, and of course, a woman -- she’s proud to be where she is.
“It’s rewarding to be able to live a full life,” Rep. Omar said.
Before wrapping up, Rep. Omar did have a message of inspiration for the students she met with. “You should be proud of yourselves,” she told Overdahl’s third-graders. “Because we’re proud of you.”