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Tag: Youth

April 26, 2013 Posted by admin in Blog

Youth at AAANY learn about Summer Opportunities

The Arab American Association of New York  in partnership with the Mayors Office of Immigrant Affairs and their Know your Rights initiative coordinated a forum for youth to learn about summer jobs and internship opportunities. Our DYCD & Summer Opportunities Forum was widely successful, it had a high turnout, great information, and great speakers. Our incredibly driven youth were eager to help set up, buy the pizza,  and get the forum started. They all came eager to get informed and figure out what they will be doing this coming summer. Some youth came because of their friends, and some parents came to accompany their teenagers.

The event began with delicious pizza and casual conversation as everyone got settled in and finished setting up. Lourdes Vazquez began the forum by speaking about the Neighborhood Leadership Institute which is held throughout the five boroughs and offers free skill building workshops. She felt that the forum turnout was great and she joked that she was “shocked that all the pizza was gone”. She also felt that the youth employment opportunities guide we made for them were excellent. Emily Rowland-Kain, also from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs  thought the forum was very worthwhile, “You had so many kids attend and they were really enthusiastic about finding summer employment-- it's great that you can help them”. Emily also spoke to everyone about how their parents can apply for citizenship at their service events, one of which will be held in Sunset Park on May 18th.

Kenneth Scott, a Senior Community Liaison from the Department of Youth & Community Development, spoke to a group of over 20 youth about the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) for which the deadline is May 10th 2013. He gave out paper applications and explained the type of information they would need to complete it. The Summer Youth Employment Program provides part time jobs for youth ages 14 to 24 in community organizations, government agencies and the private sector. The program runs for six weeks from July 8th to August 17th. In the past the AAANY has been an SYEP worksite and has hosted SYEP participants during the summer who have been incredibly helpful during the summer months.

Some other opportunities for youth during the summer besides SYEP are the Sadie Nash Leadership Project- Summer Institute for which the deadline is May 3rd. This great program for young women runs from July 8th to August 16th Monday through Friday 10:00-4:30 PM. Youth in this program take interesting classes and workshops and also meet women in different leadership positions. At the AAANY we currently have a participant from the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, Nancy Uddin is an incredible young lady interning with us every Friday and is heavily involved with Brooklynat. Ayisha a community organizing fellow at the AAANY strongly feels that “Nancy has served as a bridge to other women's’ empowerment initiatives across the city, and that is the essence of what an organizer does.”

Another wonderful summer opportunity is the FUTURESandOptions Summer Internship Program through which students participate in paid internships in NYC. The deadline to apply to this program is June 15th. One of our remarkable youth, Ehlame Kaid had a few words to say about the forum “I went to the forum to see what type of opportunities I could get involved with in and outside of my community. I actually really liked it because I didn't think we had these types of things in my community, that I could have joined a long time ago. I wish I knew about all of these opportunities earlier on, so that I could have gotten involved since my freshmen year of high school instead of my senior year. I recommend that everyone go to these forums.”

Regardless of whether you participate in a program, there are great summer opportunities in the city to volunteer and get involved. We love to help youth get involved and connected with their community. We love to help them get engaged in activities that will further their professional and personal development. At AAANY we always have something awesome going on that you can get involved with. If you are interested in art, we will have the RASMI Summer Arts Programs with Katherine Toukhy. Katherine believes that “An image can show the power and nuances of who you are, and your experiences, if you are given the right tools to build it”. If you want to help children in need please get involved with our School Supply Drive for Syrian and Palestinian children in a refugee camp. Our amazing and dedicated caseworker Arwa Aziz is coordinating this wonderful relief effort/ humanitarian effort, she believes, “Arwa quote  “. If you want to help more locally come with us to Staten Island on May 11th to participate in a Sandy Relief project during which we will be painting and helping families affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Stay connected, give back and pass it forward!

-Evelyn Garcia


Kitaab Club working to leave no child behind

For the past 7 years, the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) has offered Kitaab Club, an after-school math and English literacy program with the goal of providing essential learning support for children in the areas of math, reading, writing and listening comprehension. The program is offered to students ranging from 1st to 5th grade that are English language learners and/or below grade level. With overcrowded English Language Learner classes in the NYC public schools, and diminishing resources to help these students, AAANY works to leverage its cultural competency and connection to the community to fill the gap. More than just a homework-help session, Kitaab Club provides interactive activities, educational games, and a focus on outside reading practice to enhance the students’ English capabilities. In charge of the program is Evelyn Garcia, the Community Outreach Coordinator, who joined AAANY through the New York City Civic Corps, one of the Citywide Initiatives to build the capacity of nonprofits through maximizing NYC’s volunteers. Before enrolling the students, Evelyn conducted pre-screenings to test their levels and scheduled meetings with the parents to ensure their child’s involvement. Since our partnership with Primary School 170 in 2011, we have been able to use the school facility and help many of the same students who attend that school.

On January 24th, the program’s “new and improved” version started a new semester, with fresh and enthusiastic volunteers hailing from California, to Syria, and even from the United Kingdom. With more volunteer instructors we have been able to both guarantee more organization and foster a closer one-on-one relationship between the tutors and the kids; one that will feasibly grow into more of a mentor to student relationship. At the end of each day, the tutors are required to fill out an assessment, which keeps the children’s progress on record and functions as a marker from which to move forward with instruction. “Kitaab Club has improved a great deal since last semester and this has been the result of a few important changes we have made,” said Garcia “I definitely think that screening the students and having their parents come into AAANY to verify all their contact information has helped a lot. We want to work together with parents to improve their child’s academic performance so we try to be in constant communication with them. We have also actively recruited more tutors, which has resulted in a more diverse group of tutors, both in age and background. We finally have a tutor to student ratio that works!” she added, with enthusiasm. AAANY is proud to offer such a dynamic program for the community and new volunteers are always welcome to inquire after tutoring positions. For more information on the program, please contact Chelsea Estevez


Kitaab Club Kicks Off!

The beginning of a new school year means the start of a new session of Kitaab Club, AAANY’s afterschool English literacy and homework class!

This year at Kitaab Club we have our largest ever group of students! 26 children, ages 5 to 13, join us twice a week to receive homework assistance and English language lessons.

Kitaab Club provides tailored academic assistance so that we can meet the needs of every individual student, regardless of subject matter. Our primary focus is enhancing literacy amongst students who are English Language Learners, offering additional English Language assistance in a venue that caters specifically to students struggling with literacy. As part of the Arab American Family Education Initiative (AAFEI), we also aim to serve as the link to foster communication between parents, teachers, and students. Our goal is for Kitaab Club students to achieve a level of English fluency and comfort with the school system that equals that of their peers and endows them with the same opportunities.

At the core of AAFEI are our bilingual high school volunteers who employ their Arabic fluency in order to give back to their community by acting as mentors and tutors to younger students in Kitaab Club.

The students in Kitaab Club represent a variety of different backgrounds, coming from Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, Pakistan, and Spain. This provides an ideal learning opportunity for our students, exposing them to new cultures, and allowing them to develop a global perspective.

With the help of our capable and passionate full-time interns, Nashwa Lylah El-Sayed and Ania Ouldamara, and thanks to the inestimable efforts of our Youth Program Manager, Mohamad Ismail, we are able to cultivate an energetic, productive, and educational learning environment.

Kitaab Club meets at every Thursday and Friday from 3:30 to 5:30 pm at PS 170.

For more information, contact Mohamad Ismail at

-Maya Shoukri
August 24, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

Eid Toy Drive 2012

As part of giving back to the community, the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) hosted its 4th Annual Toy Drive on Friday, August 17th 2012 in a partnership with The Muslim Bar Association of New York. Our waiting room was buzzing with families and eager children, most of who were coming in a spirit to also to celebrate Eid. Around 16 volunteers and I successfully wrapped and distributed over 180 gifts to low-income families in the Bay Ridge area. As a volunteer handing out gifts, I had the joy of seeing the happiness of many little boys and girls when they received their presents, and the thankfulness of their mothers and fathers. Some of the toys we gave out were board games, princess wands, action figures, coloring books, and teddy bears. As the toy drive was going on, we had some volunteers wrapping up last minute gifts from last year’s pile since we gave away every single toy that we wrapped. It was fun to see the ‘behind the scenes’ process. ‘Hurry, hand me the tape!’ came a shout. ‘We are the worst wrappers ever’, one girl joked as more eager children rolled through the doors.

Every time another family would enter the office, all the volunteers would get excited. There was a greeter at the door, who would lead the family to the back hallway, where our table pilled with toys was set up. When the child would appear, all the volunteers would say ‘Hi!’ and we’d ask the child what their name was. The loud kids would shout their names beamingly, but the shy ones would just grin and look at us. ‘Come on,’ we’d urge them with a smile.

I remember there were two young boys that came in with their mother. We welcomed them and handed them their gifts. One of the brothers opened his gift. Then came the shouts, ‘Spiderman! Spiderman! Woo-hoo!’ All of the volunteers smiled, but we overlooked his younger brother who was about to cry. ‘What’s wrong?’ we asked. He shook his head and pointed at his brother’s gift. ‘You still haven’t opened your gift!’ someone noticed. ‘Yeah!’, we all agreed, urging him to open his present. The boy looked up and decided to open it, and out came 4 dinosaurs. All the volunteers started saying, ‘Woah! I wish I had 4 dinosaurs!’ The little boy beamed, and we knew we had done a good job.

As the day went on, we noticed the pile of toys on the table continuing to recede. At one point, there were no more presents to hand out. And as I learned, turning people away is the hardest thing to do. Telling them, “no, we don’t have any more,” is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever done. Then, as the denied families started to walk away, there came a cry, ‘Wait! We might have more!’ One volunteer ventured into the basement, and everyone in the lobby was crossing their fingers. Suddenly, a large box came into view, and carrying it was the volunteer with a victorious smile. ‘Yalla, wrap these!’ she said.

I’ve learned that a major part of community organizing is understanding our community and its needs. I believe it’s necessary to give back to your community. And this toy drive was a perfect way to bring out all the different types of people from the neighborhood to learn about each other’s differences and make people feel welcome. Encouraging people to forget their dividing differences and come together as one big community is essential if you want to be recognized by society. As a part of AAANY’s Youth Community Organizing Interns, I have learned that the first step to change is being united. A broken community is a weak one, and as simple as it may seem, a toy drive in Southern Brooklyn helped many as a whole come together as one for a common interest to spread joy.

Check out some of our pictures here.

Fatima Irfan, 13 Community Organizing Intern
July 17, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

Celebrating Culture and Building Political Power at the 6th Annual Arab American Bazaar

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On Sunday July 8th, over 4,000 people flocked to Brooklyn’s Shore Road Park to enjoy a day of live music, food, dancing and celebration at the 6th Annual Bay Ridge Arab American Bazaar. For the past six years, the Arab American Association of New York has hosted a summer festival celebrating Arab culture. This year we had beautiful summer day for our biggest bazaar yet. Click here to see a video of one of the debkeh performances or look through our photo album from the day.

The main stage drew enormous crowds as Bazaar attendees danced to music by local singers representing an array of countries across the Arab world and two debkeh (palestinian folk dance) performances. Food and craft vendors formed the perimeter of the bazaar, allowing people to enjoy the show while receiving a henna tattoo or indulging in a falafel sandwich. In between performances, politicians were given the opportunity to speak to the community, including Congressman Michael Grimm, Senator Marty Golden, Assemblywoman Nicole Maliotakis, City Council members Vincent Gentile, and Leticia James, as well as NYC Comptroller John Liu and Candidate for State Senate Andrew Gounardes.

This year we had an impressive number of volunteers help out at the event. Many of them set up kids activities, painting faces and helping children make paper flags, while others concentrated their efforts towards registering new voters. With the guidance of our voter registration staff, volunteers stressed the importance of giving political voice to the Arab American community. Members of our female empowerment group, Brooklynat were responsible for running our voter registration table, while AAANY’s Street Team interns, Omar Al Khalili and Nora AbuSha’ban worked tirelessly to stress the importance of mobilization. By the end of the day they helped to register over 100 new voters! The bazaar was a great opportunity for us as an organization to reach out to our community and supporters and reiterate the importance of voting .

Undoubtedly, civic engagement was an overarching theme of the day. Along with voter registration, crowds of youth showed up to represent their cultural pride. Two AAANY youth volunteers raised over $700 for Syria in cupcake sales and donations. Read a write-up about their efforts in the Brooklyn Daily. As a community we demonstrated our growing political presence and goal to represent the Arab and Muslim community on both a local and national level. Each year our Bazaar is an opportunity to mobilize and celebrate our community.

***AAANY is working to build community power though voter registration. We hope to register over 1,000 voters by the November elections. In addition to registration, we are striving to provide newly registered voters with the resources to lead them to become more informed voters. If you are a U.S. citizen and would like to register to vote, please stop by the Association to see our voter registration fellows, Aber Kawas and Zayd Sifri. We here at AANY believe that voting is power. It is a way for our community to demand respect, appreciation, and attention which will provide future generations with more opportunities.***
July 3, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

AAANY's family growing and about to get a lot bigger!

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We are so glad to have additions to an amazing team, the vast majority of whom has started with us since June. Ayisha, Aber, Zayd, Nourah, Omar, Katie, Kayla and Mohamad have all been constructing or strengthening programs that are about to start -- or just took off. On Monday, 9 Youth Community Organizers (YCO) worked with Ayisha, getting to know each other and discussing identity, getting inspired about the "why." It warms my heart to know that they visited Brother Cyrus up at CAIR today in what I have no doubt was an informative to hopefully transformative workshop. This program will culminate with these youth putting together the second annual youth summit in the end of August and empower the ongoing "AmplifYour voice" campaign.

On Thursday, July 5, 9 more youth will begin working with us for the next 7 weeks. The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) participants will range in age (14-20), race and languages --including Spanish and Urdu. Thanks to the Department of Youth and Community Development's SYEP program over 30,000 youth are able to be hired in NYC. Our SYEP's will have a variety of tasks: whether as camp counselors, administrative assistants, caseworkers, accountants, or doing voter registration, we are pleased to have a lot to do, teach, and produce! One of the major programs they will help with is Kitaab Camp; a 6 week summer camp that is fun, innovative, and geared to teach ELL (English Language Learners) or other at-risk youth ages 5 to 12.

The fabric of the community that we seek to empower needs your generosity to continue to grow. I could say, Click this link to donate. But more importantly, spread the love.  Come to the Bazaar this Sunday and make sure to invite your friends. This is our sixth annual Bazaar and each year it gets bigger and better.

-Christophe Jospe
May 21, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

It's My Park Clean Up

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The Arab American Association of New York brought out over 50 volunteers as part of the national Arab American service day. On Saturday, May 19th we collaborated with the Shore Rd. Parks Conservancy on their "It's my park day"It was a great opportunity to build community with other groups such as the Moroccan American House Association, and the First Church of the Brethren. Together we raked leaves, picked up trash, repainted benches, and enjoyed a beautiful Saturday outside. We are happy to provide substantive volunteer efforts and are particularly excited about upcoming  volunteer opportunities related to the upcoming electoral campaign. Thank you to everyone who came out to last week's park clean up. See pictures from Saturday here!      
May 7, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

AAANY Youth Dinner: Teenagers from Diverse Backgrounds Discuss Practicing Safe Lifestyles

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The Arab American Association of New York hosted a Youth Dinner this past Thursday, April 28th where teens came together to discuss issues they face in high school. Thirty Arab-American high school students from the Bay Ridge area joined Project SAFE, an organization that utilizes peer-to-peer training for youth between the ages of 14 and 19 to provide life-saving information. Through workshops, performances, and community outreach, Project SAFE initiates dialogue between teenagers about sex, drugs, and alcohol. When I got to AAANY I saw all my girls and was so glad that they were there and that I was not alone. The kids from Project SAFE were mostly Latino and Black and came from different backgrounds than me. In all honesty, I thought they wouldn’t understand the rules and challenges my friends and I face as first generation Arab-Americans. Boy was I wrong, not only did they get where I was coming from, but they also experienced similar cultural expectations.

To begin the event, we had an icebreaker to kill the awkwardness and get to know one another. Then, we broke up into two different groups, boys and girls, in order to discuss topics that were more relatable to each group. What I enjoyed the most from the event was the role-playing activity. The activity began with trained actors who acted out situations teens face with peer pressure to drugs, sex, and alcohol. The actors then asked if any of us girls wanted to act out a scene. We would either be the “presureer” or the “presuree," and would finish the scene based on how we would react to a situation involving peer pressure.

We also spoke about culture expectations and the fact that women are not treated the same as men, which I call a double standard. The group asked if us Arab-American girls would act out an example of this, so I volunteered to play the role of a father and my friend decided to act as the teenage daughter. The situation was that the father isn’t happy about his daughter coming home late. While her brother can be out until the sun comes out, if she’s home at 11:30pm it’s as if the world is ending. The father (me) said what any normal Arab father would say, “he is a man, he can do what he wants.” I really think the role-playing is what got the ladies from Project SAFE to ask us more about our culture. And I learned that our cultures are really not so different.

I think events like this are very important. In the end, not only was that night informative, interesting, and delicious, but, it really opened my eyes and let me know that there are other girls out there who also go through the same situations and problems as me. The best part is that they weren’t Arab or Muslim, so it made an even bigger mark on me personally to know that we share many similar experiences. I feel like it is organizations like Project SAFE that help make me less skeptical and more hopeful for the future of teens in America.

-Naema Hegazy, Senior at Fort Hamilton
April 24, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

Youth Share Perspectives at Interfaith Event

Several youth from the Arab American Association of New York attended the annual interfaith event at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue on Sunday, April 22. Through different games, activities, discussions and of course dinner, youth from AAANY, Plymouth Church and the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue shared insight into their respective faiths and had a chance to learn about others.

Youth Advisory Council President Emen Tabit described the event as a great success. These types of events are important for her, “because if different points of view are never discussed then they are never understood. Things are never black and white. There is always a gray area. This event was excellent because we got to see all different faiths sitting down discussing what would be an otherwise heated issue harmoniously.” For the break-out sessions into, she and her cousin Naema became great ambassadors for their religion, fielding questions from how engagements and dating work in Islam to what’s it like as a Muslim facing constant bias in the media. Ahmed, another of our youth who attended the event shared that “my favorite part was when there were a lot of people from different religions explaining how religion in every day life affects them in different ways.” But at the end of the day, he was happy that the take home message was “friends have nothing to do with religion. If you are my friend, it doesn’t matter what religion you come from, it has nothing to do with it.” Indeed, by wearing his FC Barcalona T-shirt he had made new friends simply talking about soccer.

-Christophe Jospe
April 18, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

AAANY Youth Spend Day at Columbia University

Brooklynat - April 10th, IUME Teacher's College, Columbia University April 10th was a very exciting day for Brooklynat, the AAANY's female empowerment group! From 10 AM to 9 PM we were at Teacher's College, Columbia University attending a workshop put together by IUME (Institute for Urban and Minority Education) staff members who assist with various youth groups at AAANY. Throughout this day I was given the chance to explore, learn, and participate in various enriching activities that sent me home with a both a headache and a desire to know more about everything that I had encountered that day.

Thanks to Dr. Arshad Ali, Katharine Vincent and Sarah Brandt, and the Institute of Urban and Minority Education at Teacher's College, we were able to use the resources of the university to prepare a presentation for the upcoming Teenage Identity and Diversity Education (TIDE) 2012 Wave Of Change Conference that will be held in late May at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Our presentation, titled "Security, Suspicion, and Surveillance: Growing Up As A Female Arab American In New York City," seeks to educate about the daily obstacles that young Arab American women face while looking at the positive impacts that we are making on our communities. The concluding segment of our presentation, "Hope For The Future," explores the different ways in which we are taking action. This segment of our day was full of trial and error, as well as laughs and frustration. In the end, the effort paid off because I can say that I'm ready and can't wait to actually present on the day of the conference! Later that day, we were given the opportunity to attend a panel discussion regarding the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act is proposed to grant undocumented students with access to average instate tuition rates and opportunities for scholarships, loans, and financial aid. Several assemblymen and dreamers were present to advocate for the legislation and encourage its enactment. Having taken several pages of notes, I was able to go back and reflect on what was said during the discussion and bring it back to the other youth at AAANY, as the DREAM Act is a rising campaign amongst them.

To conclude the amazing experience, Professor Carine Allaf invited us to attend her weekly course, "Women and Education in the Middle East," held from 7 to 9 PM. Having just attended one class session, I walked out with a better understanding of the connection between education and culture. What made the course all the more interesting was that it was half of what I considered my own culture that was being discussed, yet I was learning so much new information, or at least making connections that I had never thought to consider in the past. The nature of the course was very fascinating. It wasn't one of those classes where the professor is just standing up at the front giving a lecture; it was one big discussion, led by the graduate students themselves in which they were learning from each other. It was a learning method that seemed to be highly effective, as I certainly took away a lot from what was being said - and I was only an observer.

-Yasmina Ibrahim, Editor-in-Chief, Amplifyer