Who We Are: Emad Shahnoushi's Voice

Photography by  Jeremy Poland

Photography by Jeremy Poland

At just 18, Emad Shahnoushi is likely one of the most progressive and forward-thinking people in the Grand Valley. He takes advantage of every opportunity to share his personal story and passion for advocacy and activism.

Shahnoushi’s father immigrated to Grand Junction from Isfahan, Iran, when Shahnoushi was just 6 months old. After an arduous five-year immigration process, Shahnoushi, his mother, and his brother were reunited with his father.

“It was a culture shock,” says Shahnoushi. “I didn’t speak any English and was now very distant from all my neighbors and large extended family I was very close to.”

He transitioned well into school, though eventually graduating as valedictorian from Palisade High School’s challenging International Baccalaureate Programme, which focuses on a global approach to education.

“We live in such an isolated community that we forget the world beyond our valley,” says Shahnoushi. “I encourage people to get out and explore the world. It’s smaller than you think.”

Shahnoushi’s activism blossomed in high school, where he found platforms that empowered his voice. He is active in Western Colorado Days of Action and the Muslim Youth Leadership Council, and has participated in “Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbor” at Colorado Mesa University, the Women’s March (speaking against gendered Islamophobia), and Martin Luther King Jr. Day events. Shahnoushi is also an advocate for LGBTQ and health-care rights, refugee relief, the environment, and he has a special heart for education and voting.

“Those in school now are our future, and schools should be the most well-funded part of our society,” says Shahnoushi. “Everyone needs to vote. Elections have worldwide consequences that affect people’s everyday lives. Today, because of the travel ban, some of my family can’t visit me.”

This fall Shahnoushi heads to Columbia University in New York City. He plans to study the many aspects of international relations. As he leaves for a place known for its activism and diversity, Shahnoushi is proud of the difference he’s made here, spreading his message of acceptance, love, and recognizing all people.

“My parents have been my biggest fans, and I want to succeed for them because they gave up so much for my brother and me to have a brighter future,” says Shahnoushi. “They wanted to open up the world for us, and they did.”

Shahnoushi considers himself an “intersectional,” a term that recognizes different layers of experience and identity, especially as they relate to disadvantage. “I am the great mix,” he asserts, “of all the influences in my life.”

Melanie WisemanWho We Are