This past Sunday, July 27th, about 50 high school students from across Illinois attended the third Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium (MYLS) sponsored by CAIR-Chicago.
The symposium offered students workshops and presentations on the significance of constructive citizenship and media engagement in order to fight stereotypes and bring about positive change. Students were also given the opportunity to work together in break-out sessions to discuss and draft proposals for community service projects they would like to lead.
The attendees represented a diverse array of backgrounds and hailed from various private, public, and Islamic schools across Illinois. The students were excited to meet new peers and share ideas on how to affect change and make meaningful contributions to their communities.
MYLS’s strives to provide American Muslim youth with a proactive agenda for social activism while fostering a healthy America Muslim identity that fits comfortably within pluralistic American society as well as Muslim value systems. Previous MYLS speakers included US Congressman Keith Ellison and the Executive Director of the Inner-City Action Network (IMAN), Rami Nashashibi.
The latest symposium featured keynote speaker Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute. Shakir addressed how faith inspires activism and service to others. He also engaged the students in a discussion on the pressures they face in a post-9/11 environment, and offered advice on how to overcome adversity and intolerance.
Students were instructed on how to channel vision into action by CAIR-Chicago's Executive Director, Ahmed Rehab. Rehab demonstrated how to communicate and convey messages effectively and build bridges with people of different faiths and backgrounds.
The second keynote speaker, Rummana Hussain of the Chicago Sun Times, inspired students to pursue careers in any field they desire while still staying true to their Muslim identity. Hussain related her personal story to the attendees and explained how hard work and faith brought her personal success. Students were also encouraged to develop their own skills in reading, writing, and analysis in order to engage the media.
The break-out session divided students into eight groups based on the different long-term community service projects they wished to lead. Some groups proposed creating Big Brother-Big Sister programs, or voter-mobilization initiatives, while others began planning the filming of a documentary on Muslim-American youth. After brainstorming and transferring goals into timelines, the students presented their proposals to the larger group and opened the forum for further discussion.
Before leaving, the students enthusiastically discussed future plans and the necessary preparations for their next MYLS symposium.
“As an official sponsor of MYLS, CAIR-Chicago is proud of the great initiative the student participants of this program have shown in embracing its mission and chartering a personal course of leadership and service in their communities,“ said Rehab. “We are indebted to the great speakers who have so far lent their appeal and wisdom to the program and its mission.”