LSA senior Aidan Sova took his first oath of office Wednesday following an appointment by Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor as a member of the Washtenaw County Human Rights Commission. Sova’s position was unanimously approved at the Ann Arbor City Council meeting Tuesday.
The Human Rights Commission is responsible for reviewing and addressing complaints from members of the Ann Arbor community about actions that violate Ann Arbor’s human rights ordinance. Members of this committee are appointed for three years by Ann Arbor’s City Council and Mayor, and they work closely with City Council to keep councilmembers informed on human rights problems in the community.
Sova is one of the youngest members to be appointed to this position since the founding of this commission in 1957. Sova told The Michigan Daily he aims to create a stronger connection with students and the Ann Arbor community in his position and forge a collaboration with the University.
“I think I’m in a very unique position in the sense of I am significantly the youngest person on the commission,” Sova said. “As a University of Michigan student and a graduating senior, I think it will be great because I understand the implications of what it means to be a student and I understand the issues that students go through on a day-to-day basis.”
Sova said he wants to take this opportunity as a member of the human rights commission to interact more with the local community.
“I hope that from here we can set the expectation that our politicians have a very open door policy, at the very least are taking and acting on requests that have merit,” Sova said.
Sova said he is committed to using his position to create an open environment for everyone in the community. He grew up in Jackson, Mich., 45 minutes from Ann Arbor in a low-income, single-parent household.
“I was living the depiction of what it meant to be marginalized individuals, particularly persons of color,” Sova said. “From there, I felt that I had been given so much by my community in terms of resources and mentorship and just general care that I aimed to give back in the ways that I knew how.”
In tenth grade, Sova stumbled into the Jackson High School library to find himself in the middle of a student council meeting. This meeting was Sova’s first exposure to civil work and eventually led to Sova’s election of student body president his senior year.
“I immediately fell in love with the work,” Sova said. “I loved the fact that somebody who came from such disenfranchisement now had the ability to make decisions that would affect other people like me. I love the fact that I was finally in that position to where I could affect real change. Even if it was just at a high school local level, I was finally making sure that people like me had their voices accounted for.”
Sova completed his first year of college at Michigan State University before transferring to the University of Michigan for his next three years. Sova served on the Association of Big Ten Students, an organization that works to unify the 14 schools in the Big Ten conference, for both universities and worked as the executive director of the association his junior year.
Sova is currently working as a policy and administration intern for Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. Sova started this internship in January 2021 after having worked on the Coronavirus Community Action Task Force since March 2020.
Kate Barnes, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist’s logistical director, said she believes Sova will be a valuable asset to the HRC.
“Something I noticed right away was his passion for community-led solutions,” Barnes said. “He wants to make sure as a young Black man in the tech field, or in public policy, he has a lot of different areas that he’s very passionate about.”
Sova’s youth is what sets him apart and will add a new perspective to any organization, according to Barnes.
After participating in various student and state organizations, Sova decided he wanted to become more involved in the Ann Arbor community outside of the University. At the end of his sophomore year, Sova contacted a variety of Ann Arbor commissions but said he never heard back.
In November 2020, Sova was approached by Leslie Stambaugh, the chair of the HRC, offering him the position. In an email to The Daily, Stambaugh explained the draw to have Sova as an addition to their commission.
“A position recently opened up, and the Mayor asked us to look over the applications to serve on the HRC that the City had received and make a recommendation,” Stambaugh wrote. “There were many impressive applicants. The group of HRC commissioners who reviewed the applications believed that because of Aidan’s life and work experience, commitment to community service, enthusiasm for and understanding of the HRC’s mission and age, he would bring a particularly valuable perspective to the commission.”
After reading over his application, the HRC unanimously recommended that the Mayor nominate Sova to serve on the HRC.
After a couple months of back and forth conversation, Sova received an email from the city clerk welcoming him to the HRC, which he shared on Twitter.
Sova said he hopes his position and success will show other students who come from disenfranchised backgrounds that they can be represented in government bodies.
“I think in the typical sense of universities, specifically within the realm of student government coming from a disenfranchised background, is somewhat of a unique lot to be in,” Sova said. “I think it was a combination of my story as well as my history in student government and community service that made it what I’d like to think a no-brainer for the committee when considering appointments.”
He said that over half of the jobs he’s had have been because he offered his help and experience, and he hopes that his position shows people that anyone no matter their background can make a difference through caring for their community and taking initiative.
“I really think that there’s power in that and being your own advocate,” Sova said “And despite whatever disenfranchisement that you’re going through, I would also say that if somebody has the means, to devote their time to being their own advocate and searching for these extra opportunities to be confident in the fact that your story has power.”
Sova is set to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Media Studies in May, when he will start a job at Google as a gTech ads support specialist and continue his position as Human Rights Commissioner.
Daily Staff Reporter Shannon Stocking can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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