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MYLS Congratulates Its Summer 2009 Participants

By Suada Kolovic

Feature 355 This past week marked the end of the Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium’s (MYLS) summer program, Breakin’ Out: Implementing Proactive Change. The program was designed to inspire and motivate young Muslims to advance their communities through service projects designed and developed by them.

This year’s program was unique in that eight youth interns were invited to come to the CAIR-Chicago office every week to work on individual projects. Under the guidance of Gerald Hankerson, CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator, Mokaram Rauf, the Youth Coordinator, and Hadee Siddiqui, the program facilitator, participants designed projects that will continue into their school year and are tailored to be implemented at the participating schools.

The program closed with presentations of four projects in front of a judge panel of CAIR- Chicago interns and staff.

Water Conservation: Universal School (Bridgeview) junior Jihan Naser is focusing her efforts on educating individuals about the importance of preserving water and providing adequate resources to underserved communities.

Muslim Youth Shadowing Program (MYSP): Another junior at Universal School, Shereen Abdeljaber, worked on forming a mentorship initiative. “This project will provide high school students with the opportunity to experience life as a college student and learn about the difficulties they might face there,” explained Abdeljaber.

A Road not Taken: Iman Kort, also a junior at Universal School, focused on providing high school students with a video conference showing professionals working in 15 different career paths. According to Kort, “The goal is to provide high school students with a better idea of what they want to be when they grow up.”

A Day in the Life of a Muslim Youth: Abdul Rahim of Northside College Preparatory High School, along with Yaseen Ali of Northtown Academy and Syed Awais Raza of Goudy Elementary School, are working on a documentary that aims to draw similarities between Muslim youth and those of other faiths. The film will also highlight the daily routines of mainstream Muslims. “We decided to work on this documentary to spread awareness, educate others and illustrate the meaning of Islam,” said Raza.

Participants are challenged to think of ways in which their religious values can be successfully leveraged to benefit self, community, and country. Over the course of the summer program, interns put together blogs twice a week to share reflections on their progress. The group also went on field trips to summer festivals and landmarks to learn how Chicago’s social and civic culture manifests through the services provided to its citizens.

Three community activists presented workshops on Muslim identity, project development, and youth activism: Erum Ibrahim, former President of United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA) at DePaul University; Michael Swies, Coordinator of the Chicago Chapter of Project Downtown (PD-Chicago); and Asad Jafri, Director of Arts and Culture at the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN)

Although the eight-week program was the first of its kind, with all the positive feedback, MYLS will surely continue for years to come. “It was a wonderful experience,” said Nisreen Alharsha, a volunteer attending Universal School.

“MYLS helped me gain better leadership skills,” said intern Yaseen Ali. “This is the best program I’ve ever attended,” he added. If you are interested in supporting or learning more about MYLS and its student projects, contact Gerald Hankerson at or visit where you can also read the participants’ blogs.

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