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Rutgers SPAA Student Aliyah Saleem Presented with Inaugural Honorable Sheila Oliver Service Award from NJMMA

Gregg Van Ryzin, SPAA Interim Dean; Jillian Barrick, NJMMA Secretary; Aliyah Saleem, SPAA BA Student; and Aaron Gibbs, SPAA Associate Dean

Aliyah Saleem, a Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) undergraduate student, was formally presented with the inaugural Honorable Sheila Oliver Service Award from the New Jersey Municipal Management Association (NJMMA) on Dec. 12 by NJMMA Secretary Jillian Barrick (EMPA'14), Business Administrator for Morristown, NJ.

In recognition of the services provided by Former Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Sheila Oliver to residents of New Jersey, NJMMA created an annual scholarship award in Oliver's honor for students who are seeking a career in public service. It was established by NJMMA to honor Oliver's long and distinguished career, but especially her earlier service to local governments and communities. 

"Oliver had various roles, and it's important to acknowledge that section of her life," said Barrick. "Local government is what touches everybody's lives everyday."

Saleem, currently a senior in SPAA's Public and Nonprofit Administration (BA) program, learned from an early age the power of offering comfort and support to those in need. She started volunteering from around the age of 10; her mother would take her to soup kitchens. Since then she has been an active volunteer and has dedicated hundreds of hours to community service at food banks and other service organizations.

Always looking to how she could make an impact on the lives of others physically and mentally, Saleem was in a pre-med program with the intent to pursue a career as an OB-GYN wanting to help address high maternal mortality rates. However, when she realized that a degree in public administration aligned with what she already did in her service to others, she changed her major so as to learn more about the aspects of public administration and the role it plays in serving society.

While at SPAA, she was able to link her academic knowledge with meaningful community service, especially through the Service-learning Internship course that she said provided her with valuable insights and skills to excel in her role as a community impact intern with Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceuticals). In 2022, she was selected as part of the inaugural cohort of Voyager Scholarship recipients, a group of 100 rising college juniors with plans to pursue a career in public service. The scholarship, created by Barack and Michelle Obama and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, supports students with academic funding, exposure to travel, and connections to a network of leaders.

Her involvement with helping others in need of basic necessities, along with her health interests and background, led her to notice that often where there was food insecurity, there was also a lack of hygiene products – and federally funded health and nutrition assistance programs don't include them. Inspired by her desire to expand access to basic hygiene necessities, she founded Hope for Health & Hygiene (H4HH), a community organization dedicated to ending the cycle of hygiene poverty by providing free hygiene supplies to underserved and marginalized communities. To date, the organization has distributed over 5,000 products in NJ and has expanded its reach to other states by partnering with other organizations.

Saleem, set to graduate in May 2024, is open to various possibilities for her future endeavours. Her enthusiasm for creating a positive social impact is what drives her.

"I am determined to channel this passion throughout my professional journey to make a meaningful difference in the world," she said. "I want to thank [NJMMA] for creating this opportunity to give back to students who really want to make an impact."