Southern California In Focus: Leadership program inspires Muslim teens

The 4th annual Muslim Youth Leadership Program held in California’s capital from Aug. 14-17 may not have consisted of a high school student’s regular weekend of activities. Instead, it was four rigorous days of workshops, conferences, and lectures addressing important issues on politics and community.

Hosted jointly by the four California chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, this year’s program congregated students from San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento. For the 35 delegates who participated, the Muslim youths learned that the program was in fact inspiring and unique.

The program included guest speakers from state capitol staff as well as CAIR’s own staff, including CAIR-Chicago’s executive director, Ahmed Rehab, and CAIR-Sacramento Valley’s executive director, Basim Elkarra.

Because the MYLP focuses on uniting active Muslim high school students who seek to make a difference, participants from all over the state were excited to meet in Sacramento. Not only did the program aim to teach the delegates how to make an impact in the world, it transformed into a beneficial way of networking and creating new bonds with other active Muslims throughout California.

“Everyone in the group grew together,” confessed Saim Chodree, 17, and a recent graduate from the Sacramento area.

The program itself served as a challenging experience for Muslim youths training in leadership, community activism, media training, and government relations. For 17-year old Sacramento Senior Navera Rehimpoola, the conference was a learning experience.

“It really opened my eyes about how much change we can make,” she said. “It changed the way I see the world.”

Similarly, Chodree walked away from the program learning that his first impression of the program was not his last, “They promised leadership skills and I didn’t understand what that means [at first],” he said. “But I learned what leadership really is and I understand we Muslims can have a voice.”

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