Parkside was thrilled to recently add Norah Yahya to our roster of high-caliber government relations talent. We sat down with Norah to learn more about our dynamic new Vice President.
The D.C. native made her entrance to national politics at only 17 years old, serving as an intern to US Senator Dianne Feinstein. One of her first research projects for the esteemed Senator was working on the sunset of the automatic weapons ban. After seeing how the policy change would impact people from around the nation, Norah was inspired to pursue a career in government.
Norah comes from a large, tight-knit, blended family with 5 brothers, 3 sisters, and 17 nieces and nephews. She said her family gives her perspective on issues like childcare and parenting. One of Norah’s biggest passions is education equity.
Norah saw firsthand growing up in Maryland the disparity between schools in affluent areas and schools in urban areas in D.C.
She experienced the inequity in low-income school districts when she transferred from a top school in a wealthy county to one of D.C.’s urban schools. “I went to elementary school in Howard County Maryland, it was the top school district at the time. When I transferred to a DC high school and saw how far ahead I was compared to my classmates it showed me the disparity between the two school districts and really ignited my passion.”
Norah went on to pursue a Masters in Urban Education Policy. After completing her degree, she spent the next 3 years advocating for youth programs and childcare at United Neighborhood Houses. In 2012, she began working at the New York City Council serving as a Senior Legislative Financial Analyst. She said in graduate school she had hoped to change the whole education system for the better but quickly learned that it’s difficult to change things without proper funding and political buy-in. “They never discussed budgets or funding or the external factors that impact students.” Working in the City Council and covering the DOE’s and ACS’ budget gave her a new perspective on what actually needed to be done to improve city schools.
After spending three years working for the City Council, Norah took her newfound budgetary expertise to the New York Public Library. Although she had learned new approaches to accomplishing her policy goals, Norah continued to emphasize the value of community engagement. She sought to create a dialog with the people who were being served and those who were serving them. Norah believes that all nonprofits should be community guided. “It can be ugly and hard but in the end, you come out with a program that has community input and buy-in.”
Norah continues to push for community-driven change as a board member of La Cima Elementary Charter School. She said she believes in giving back and investing in her community. “When I discovered La Cima I decided I wanted to give my time.
It’s an independent charter school, that focuses on social justice and approaches the scholar from a holistic perspective, giving them yoga and art in addition to mental health counselors and other benefits for families.”
In her role at The Parkside Group, Norah helps nonprofit clients by leveraging her expertise and connections in city and state government. She believes that all nonprofit groups, large and small, need to have a handle on their government affairs. Without a relationship with state and local governments, organizations will miss opportunities for funding. Norah helps her clients build lasting relationships with elected officials and other stakeholders. Norah hopes to change the narrative of how lobbyists can serve and support the people that are doing the most important work on the ground. In the meantime, she’ll continue to help her clients by winning them well deserved city and state funding.