More than just a summer volunteer experience

Dylan Okabe-Jawdat spent several weeks with AAANY this summer as a volunteer, and ended up as youth community organizer, building community and immersing himself into the culture. He shares his experiences here:

After spending a month at an Arabic immersion program this summer, I was inspired not only to apply what I had learned, but also to continue to be immersed in Arabic upon my return to New York. With a little research I found the Arab American Association of New York, an organization located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, serving a predominantly Arab-American community. I soon found that language-learning was not going to be central to my volunteer work. While one side of the organization was dominated by social work, I joined a group of high school volunteers highly motivated to break down the racial boundaries that they observed between youth had in the neighborhood. While I can't say that goal was entirely accomplished, for the duration of my volunteer work I had the opportunity to facilitate activities and discussions about race and identity, in an attempt to understand the tensions within the community. We also had the opportunity to meet with a few organizations in order to better understand how to stimulate interest in community projects. During the period that I worked at the Arab American Association, we launched what is now an online youth-run editorial, as a platform for high school students to share their perspectives called TheAmplifYer. After my experience this summer, I was surprised by the confidence as well as the range of skills that I acquired. I hope that others actively seek out similar opportunities and can enjoy the same rewards that I did.