Lincoln Laureate aspires to help others

Rafid Rahman

“Even if it is really small, there’s something you can do to help your community,” says Rafid Rahman. ­(Photo: Vibhu S. Rangavasan)

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Rafid Rahman had a simple objective when he began classes at UIC four years ago. He just wanted to help others.

“One thing my parents have always told me is, ‘Wherever you go, at any stage of your life, you can always give back,’” said Rahman, a senior in anthropology and biology. “Even if it is really small, there’s something you can do to help your community. So I really wanted that to be the focus of any club I joined.”

Fast-forward seven semesters, and the Springfield native is being honored for his strong commitment to service with the Lincoln Laureate, an award given to a senior at each undergraduate institution in Illinois.

“I’m super honored,” he said. “I can’t say that enough. So many people that I know here have done great things and made UIC such a great campus, and I don’t think this campus would be the same without any of them. To be recognized out of those people and be the sole winner of this award, I’m truly honored.”

In total, 56 students across the state named Lincoln Laureates, which takes into account public service and academics. Gov. Bruce Rauner joined the Lincoln Academy of Illinois in recognizing the students at the Old State Capitol Nov. 12.

Rauner presented the students with a certificate of merit, a medal of Lincoln and a $1,000 check from the Lincoln Academy.

“I was able to meet Governor Rauner,” Rahman said. “You hear about these politicians and when you actually get to see them in real life… you can finally see why people respect politicians so much and how much power that they have. It’s pretty cool.”

Rahman stuck out among applicants because of his unique volunteerism.

The senior founded the College of Cycling, a UIC bike club that focuses on philanthropy by taking unused food from campus dining halls and pedaling it over to homeless shelters. During Rahman’s time as president, the club donated more than 500 pounds of food. He estimates it’s more than 1,000 pounds now.

“I’m glad that I’ve been able to have an impact on the community that I really appreciate because they’ve given me so many opportunities,” Rahman said.

“I’m glad I was able to maximize on those things, and really follow in the footsteps of Lincoln himself.”

He has also made an impression on UIC faculty members.

“Part of the great secret of his success,” said Nancy Cirillo, professor emerita of English, who taught Rahman in a core humanities class, “other than his native talent, which is considerable, is that his interest and his focus was directed outside himself.

“He is a model for what we so hope our students to be.”

Rahman will start medical school at the University of Toledo in the fall.

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