By Daniel Oyefusi
As a child, Jonathan Allen grew up in Aventura—a suburb roughly 18 miles north of Miami—as the son of a single mother who worked long shifts an hour away from their home.
Because of his mother’s work obligations, neighbors and members of his community frequently chipped in to help out, whether that was giving him rides after school or letting him stay at their house until his mother returned.
“The community was always very supportive and helpful in any way that they could be,” said Allen, a junior government and politics major. “So when I was old enough to give back on my own and to play an active role and help others, I decided that was something I wanted to focus on.”
Allen will now get that opportunity. On April 20, the Envision Maryland candidate defeated Recognize UMD’s Humza Yahya in the race for Student Government Association president. Allen received 74 percent of the votes, according to election results released by SGA.
“This is something I have worked toward for several years now,” Allen said. “I have been involved in SGA since my freshman year. To finally achieve this goal is relieving and exciting.”
Allen became involved in politics in high school. A 2015 graduate of Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School, he served as SGA president during his sophomore and junior years. At this university, he has served as undergraduate studies senator, Resident Hall Association Ellicott Hall Council representative, SGA speaker of the house and president of Terps for Israel.
As president of Terps for Israel, Allen said he worked to strengthen the organization’s relationship with federal lawmakers, as well as bring in guest speakers to speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“[Terps for Israel] evolved into a very active group that politically, educationally and culturally it wasn’t before,” said Avi Schneider, a junior marketing major, and current president of Terps for Israel. “That was a lot due to his leadership, his dedication to the group.”
Allen said he will focus on multiple issues as president—advocating for more paid internships, mental health resources—but his main priority will be affordability, which includes prices for textbooks and fees associated with tuition.
“These costs add up and it makes a student’s time here at the university really expensive,” Allen said. “So finding ways to address affordability—whether it is through open-source textbooks or a cap-and-gown program—are things we hope to explore.”
While Allen admitted that he hasn’t thought too much about potential obstacles that he may face during his presidency, he eventually mentioned working with new members of SGA and “navigating the bureaucracy” as some early roadblocks he will have to overcome.
Jewish Agency Fellow to Maryland Hillel Shira Gabay has worked alongside Allen over the past two years with pro-Israel groups.
“Jonathan is really devoted to his work and takes it very seriously, so I think the only thing that will be hard for him is to remember to take some time for himself,” Gabay said.