Rashaad Bajwa arrived in the United States when he was 3 years old. Learning English was easy, given his age. And his parents, educated in British schools in Pakistan, spoke English at home. But he still lived the immigrant experience. “I still am,” he says.
“Even though I grew up as an American from quite young, I was always reminded, and I certainly felt, as somebody from the outside.” In Ewing, New Jersey, “I was one of maybe two or three Asian students, so I desperately wanted to be white.”
His sophomore year, the family moved to West Windsor, which has a large Asian population, a move he says “dramatically changed my self-confidence.” Middlesex County is also where he met his wife, an immigrant from China. He tells his children they are “Pakinese.” The kids say they are half Chinese, half Pakistani, and “all American.”
“There are very few places in the world where a Pakistani boy and a Chinese girl can meet each other,” Bajwa says. As a result, he is passionate about the idea of the American immigrant experience and the boundless possibilities it affords.
Thanks to the diversity of Middlesex County, his children — he believes all children — won’t feel like outsiders, as he once did. They will be able to thrive and contribute. “Inclusion, that feeling of belonging, is one of our most important needs as humans,” he says, adding: “Not only is it good for people to feel like a part of family, but it’s in our self-interest to have people who hold us near and dear as neighbors.”
Bajwa is an example. He is giving what he can to help the next generation of Americans succeed. He has started three computer technology companies: Domain Computer Services; BizRatings.com; and Domain Tech Academy. And he volunteers with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association; he coaches youth soccer; and with his wife started the Future Domain Tech Academy, a volunteer tech training initiative at a Boys and Girls Club.
“We want to help develop the skills in America that previously we had to outsource,” he says.