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Alumna Leads $6 Million Fundraising Effort for Pulse Victims

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Courtesy of the UCF College of Sciences

UCF alumna Ida V. Eskamani, '12, '16, serves as a development officer for Equality Florida in Orlando where she is currently managing what she describes as the most important task of her career.

Following the shooting at Pulse Nightclub, Equality Florida launched a Go Fund Me page for the victims' families and survivors. Eskamani launched the site and is managing the fundraising effort as well as Equality Florida's victim outreach; working directly with many victims in need of support and resources.

With the initial goal of $100,000, Eskamani and her team raised $6.2 million in just two weeks of the page's launch. This is the fastest Go Fund Me page to reach $1M, the first to reach $2M, and the largest in the history of the site. With a new goal of $10 million, the page is rapidly growing toward meeting this objective.

"We are awed by the outpouring of love and support from every corner of the world," explained Eskamani. "Every dollar raised directly supports the victims' families and survivors."

Eskamani, who graduated summa cum laude with dual bachelor's degrees in political science and sociology in 2012, and with her master's degree in public administration in May, traces her fervor for equality to her undergraduate days at UCF.

"I learned of the inherent inequalities ingrained in our society, and also the theories and tools to promote social justice," said Eskamani. "The opportunity to study, analyze, and debate these topics with a diverse student body provided me invaluable experience that I leverage every day."

Eskamani's mission for equality combined with her academic experience at UCF produces a powerful force that is changing lives through Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's LGBTQ community.

Eskamani began her career in advocacy at UCF as a student activist participating in organizations such as the Iranian Student Organization, Voices for Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women, and more. However, she described being the President of the College Democrats as the most influential role to her career while at UCF.

Eskamani also developed and defended an undergraduate thesis focused on the political potential of Iran's youth, participated on several research teams, and presented her research at conferences. She was also honored as an Order of the Pegasus recipient upon her 2012 graduation.

"I continue to be grateful for the faculty at UCF, which despite the enormous size of the study body, somehow manage to provide direct feedback, opportunities, and an engaging learning experience," said Eskamani.

During the pursuit of her master's degree in public administration Eskamani worked full-time in advocacy on political campaigns, at Florida Community Health Information Action Network, and now Equality Florida, before graduating in May.

Eskamani shared more on her time at UCF, her current role at Equality Florida, and shared advice for students.

Why did you choose to attend UCF?

For my family, UCF has always stood for opportunity. Immigrants from Iran, my parents settled in Orlando and worked several minimum wage jobs in pursuit of a brighter future for their children. My mother worked at a department store, and my father worked as a server while also earning his degree in Electrical Engineering at UCF. He graduated in 1994, and though we still didn't have much, his UCF degree opened new opportunities for my family. My parents taught my siblings and I that education was the key to personal and professional success, and I always associated that mantra with UCF. In addition to my father, my brother, sister, and I each graduated from UCF.

Have you stayed involved with UCF since graduation?

I have had the pleasure of managing many interns from the College of Sciences. Knowing how invaluable my internship experiences were as a UCF student, I find great joy in working with these undergraduates from both the Political Science and Sociology departments.

What is your best UCF memory?

Through academics and activism, I have some incredible memories from UCF. I found the most amazing friendships, achieved academic honors I never thought I could reach, and mobilized around so many progressive causes I care passionately for. I think my most enduring memory would be our voter registration drives. I must have asked every single student on that campus if they were registered to vote at their current address, to the point where years later, people still remember me as the voter registration girl. Registering students to vote is still one of my favorite things to do-I love being there for that moment when a young person embraces their power. 

What is your favorite thing about your job?

Equality Florida is a powerhouse organization. The staff is dynamic, our volunteer teams are so passionate, and the mission is so critically important. The LGBTQ community is one which intersects with every facet of society, so when you advocate for LGBTQ equality, you are advocating for basic human rights and dignity. Several of my colleagues are also UCF graduates, so we have a lot of Knight Pride on staff.

What is your most memorable experience on the job?

Equality Florida has always been a trail-blazing organization. When I joined staff, two weeks later we sued the state of Florida in the fight for same-sex marriage! Since then, marriage equality is the law of the land; we have gained historic bipartisan support for a statewide nondiscrimination law, and passed dozens of local LGBTQ protections.

What piece of advice would you give to current students?

To all current UCF students, I would urge you to follow your passion, get involved on campus, pursue research opportunities, and find internships that can be applied towards course credits. UCF is a huge campus, but faculty is there to support each individual student. Due to scholarships and my decision to stay at home, I was fortunate enough to have time to dedicate towards my academics as well as extracurricular activities and internships. Not all students have the same opportunity, which is why I am an advocate of paid internship programs.

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