What makes you a Difference Maker?
I think my initiative to turn ideas into action is what makes me a Difference Maker. Everyone is capable of doing amazing things, you just have to push yourself to do it. Getting a great internship, starting an organization, being a leader—none of these things are easy. With the right initiative, though, you can do anything. The opportunities that I have been given and all of the wonderful people in my life who push me in the right direction, on and off campus, have helped me become the person I am today. I want to help other students, who are in the same place I was four years ago, succeed and do great things. It is up to us to encourage and push each other to be the best that we can be.
Highlight your campus achievements:
I’m a proud Opportunity Scholar and Henry Patton Electrical Engineering Scholar at the University of Michigan-Dearborn (UM-Dearborn). I have been on the Dean's List for four out of my six semesters at UM-Dearborn. I recently had the opportunity to work on two different research projects. With Professor Samir Rawashdeh, I worked on finding new ways to use augmented reality with the Microsoft HoloLens and embedded systems for Ford Motor Company. With Professor Wencong Su and Professor Lin Van Nieuwstadt, I’m working on a project to combine renewable energy and water filtration to provide a rural community in Nigeria with clean water. My greatest academic achievement, though, was when I completed an internship, with the advice and guidance of the Anthony DeLaRosa in CECS Engineering Experiential Learning and Co-Op Education, at NASA Kennedy Space Center working with app development and augmented reality hardware.
Highlight your leadership experiences both on and off campus.
Much of my leadership experience stems from co-founding The Fanoos Project, which is an initiative that seeks to empower stateless Afghan children and orphans in the Middle East. In Summer 2015, two friends and I performed a community assessment of the stateless Afghan population in low socioeconomic areas of Middle Eastern countries. We found that due to the economic and social disadvantages associated with statelessness, an overwhelming majority of the children at specific refugee schools participated in the informal economy where they were often exposed to exploitative situations. Together, we co-founded "The Fanoos Project". We wanted to gather financial support from our networks and coordinate with volunteers to work together and meet the needs of this community center. We spent the next year organizing a team of volunteers, and planning all of the projects we wanted to implement within the Afghan refugee community in the Middle East. We applied for grants and received the $10,000 Swarthmore Lang Opportunity Scholarship to start this project.
During the summer of 2016, I traveled to Al-Hassan* School in the Middle East with a group of international student volunteers to help implement this project. Through the course of two months, we were able to organize and teach art classes and English classes to students, paint murals for the Al-Hassan school renovation and beautification project, organize and participate in weekly meetings with volunteers and the Al-Hassan principal to discuss productivity and future tasks and meet with NGOs with similar goals to discuss solutions and possible partnerships. We were also able to research and implement a plan for the health education initiative at Al-Hassan, which included a new water fountain for the students, soap for the student bathrooms, health class curriculum, opportunities for the students to receive health care and physical education at a discounted/free admission at specific institutes in the area.
The experience I had working with the students and faculty at Al-Hassan, as well as leading a group of volunteers into another country, definitely helped me grow as a person and as a leader.
*School name has been changed to protect students and faculty involved in the Fanoos Project
What is your dream career and/or long term life goal?
My dream career is to work in the tech industry with all of the latest and greatest technology that is constantly coming out. I’d love to put my technical skills to work as an electrical engineer, as well as my people and leadership skills as a team manager. I plan to use my technical skills in projects that help others, such as those completed by Engineers Without Borders. My lifelong goal is to continue working on and expanding the Fanoos Project to as many people we can reach, not just the Afghan refugee community in the Middle East, but whoever is in need of our services. I also want to continue expanding my horizons and learning about other cultures by traveling around the world and learning multiple languages.
What was your most defining moment at UM-Dearborn?
My most defining moment while at UM-Dearborn was finishing the project at Al-Hassan School with the Fanoos Project. I was able to see the school renovation/beautification from start to finish and build a relationship with both the students and the faculty. I’m honored to have been able to partake in the experience and work with the other volunteers, as well as the amazing staff and students at Al-Hassan. Working on a project such as this really helped me put my life into perspective, and push me in the direction of social service outside (and inside) of my technical career.