The awesome thing about civic engagement is seeing young adults develop skills and then apply them to real life situations. Since 2005 I have had the opportunity to be part of an innovative program called the Muslim Youth Leadership Program (MYLP) which was created by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Sacramento chapter for CAIR California (CAIR-CA).
The annual conference brings together 45 Muslim high school students from across the state to participate in workshops on community organizing, leadership development, and public speaking. The participants, all coming with exemplary leadership skills in their own communities, take part in a “mock legislature” session and have the opportunity to serve as legislators, debating public policy issues and prepare bills they vote on later to the Senate floor for voting.
Since 2005, four hundred students have participated in MYLP, including my younger brother and sister. Over the years, the program’s graduates have gone on to become community activists – many of whom have created their own non-profit organizations, and taken on groundbreaking leadership roles.
This past weekend, MYLP celebrated its 10 years of existence! That is such an awesome milestone, but even more amazing is how the program has grown and impacted the students that participated in it!
One of the participants from last weekends new cohort, Bilal Mubarak from San Marin High School, epitomizes the reason I have been a cheerleader for this program:
“I’ve grown up in a small community with almost no Muslim teenagers. I really wanted to apply to MYLP because I wanted to meet more young Muslims. I’m really happy because all of their enthusiasm really rubbed off on me. It was also amazing to learn more about politics and it has opened up a whole new field for me.”
Keeping in touch with the kids who participated gives me a chance to see them grow, but also its how I get to help them find new opportunities that they might not have known about. Its a great way to bridge the generational gap, and that sort of leadership is what I most appreciate about the program. I feel that I lacked that growing up, I didn’t have those older mentors nor the folks that took time out of their lives to invest it in giving me a leg up. But whats pretty amazing is seeing this program grow from a dozen participants (only three girls) to one of the most competitive programs in the community drawing close to fifty students from across the state!