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MYLS Participates in Intercultural Exchange Program

By Nadia Ahmed

Feature The Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium (MYLS) is a founding member of the Chicago Youth Exchange 2009 Summer Program, which took place this past August 12-13. The program arranges an overnight stay at Hostelling International for youth from all over Chicago. While there, students gather together to explore issues of identity.

Participants delved into topics such as “race, ethnicity and gender,” as well as “interests that allowed them to learn from each other,” according to Gerald Hankerson, Outreach Coordinator of CAIR-Chicago and Administrator of the MYLS program.

On day one of the CYE program, participants got to know one another through several interactive activities, including cooking meals together, interacting with international hostel guests, and enjoying a scavenger hunt across Millennium Park.

On day two, they engaged in a service project at Inspiration Café, conversing with former homeless people, individuals in rehabilitation programs, and others they possibly would not interact with in their daily lives.

Adham Sahloul and Ahmad Musleh, juniors at Universal School, were the two members selected by MYLS to participate in the CYE program. Sahloul says he wanted to take part because he would be able to meet different types of people and “make new friendships while working for the benefit of the community.” He added that the program made participants more outgoing and eager to help the community.

Arielle Semmel, head coordinator of the program, believes that the trip to Inspiration Café had a particularly powerful impact on the youth. She acknowledged that often, homeless people are stripped of a tangible identity and are labeled as “homeless.” This service project provided youth with the “opportunity to see identity beyond that–see those ‘homeless guys’ as individual people.”

Jehad Abelalal, a CYE facilitator and CAIR-Chicago volunteer activist, believes that students needed to have a “maturity as young leaders to be able to do this program.”

The next CYE program is scheduled for January 2009.

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