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Zain Pasha '11

Our 2011 JFK Awardee is committed to creating opportunities for low-income high school students

Zain Pasha '11 is the winner of the Class of 1964’s JFK Memorial Award for 2011. Zain, whose home is Liberty, Missouri, was a double major in Economics and Government, with a minor in Information Science. He was selected from among 30 applicants, one of the largest JFK candidate pools in recent years. A serious student who had to be prodded to reveal some hobbies – tennis and digital photography – Zain is headed to Kansas City as a middle school science teacher with Teach for America before pursuing a master’s in education policy and management. Besides teaching, Zain also intends to start a non-profit organization to support high-achieving low-income students in securing post-secondary opportunities. 

Zain’s chosen profession grows out of his experience as a student in a rural classroom, where limited resources inhibited his pursuing challenging extracurricular activities. Thanks to a teacher who secured a scholarship for him to study robotics at the local high school while Zain was still in second grade, he writes, “it changed my outlook and encouraged me to seek future challenges that would force me to think about problems in creative ways; I firmly believe that without my teacher’s confidence and the support I received from the scholarship I would not be the person I am today. I want to have a similar impact on the lives of students who face the same challenges that I did, and working through Teach For America and my organization will allow me to do that.” 

Zain Pasha '11

Zain receiving the award certificate from Mike Newman on campus in May, 2011

A second key factor in Zain’s professional development was his experience as an intern for two summers with Deloitte Consulting. He selected Deloitte because of the company’s commitment to community service. This policy brought Zain into contact with a New York City-area charter school, during a community service work day. He recognized that the school’s students were missing out on access to technology and hence to virtual collaboration and online educational resources. In short, “There was value left on the table.” So he set about to remedy the situation, writing a successful proposal to Deloitte for a pilot education reform project that could later be extended to other charter schools, incorporating technology best practices that would be identified through a long-term research project. Zain continued his involvement with this project during his senior year at Cornell. 

Zain’s work with Deloitte also stimulated him to flex his entrepreneurial muscles. He writes, “Deloitte showed me that business skills are not simply meant for those working on projects at Fortune 500 companies, but rather could be applied very effectively to help make a positive impact in the world.” 

JFK scholarship winners are an exceptional bunch, accustomed to winning plaudits. Still, Zain’s letters of reference stand out as testimony to his extraordinary qualities. One professor wrote that “Zain Pasha is one of the most remarkable students I have known in almost 30 years of university teaching.” Another called him “the most outstanding student I have come across in my time at Cornell” [and three other top universities]. Zain is a member of Sphinx Head as well as being a Meinig Family Cornell National Scholar. In addition to his academic accomplishments, he founded and oversaw the electronic publishing division of The Triple Helix, an international non-profit devoted to the study of science in society. As President of Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society, he helped to organize a benefit concert and panel discussion for Pakistan-India flood relief. 

Zain Pasha’s commitment to improving educational opportunities for all students is what Cornell is about. The Class of 1964 is proud to support Zain as he takes the next steps in his career.