Posted by Guest on October 25, 2017 in Blog

IMG_7600.jpgby Sydney Roeder

As the first intern for the Middle Eastern American Advisory Group (MEAAG), Nour Oubenali has been able to bring her love of service into the workplace to make an impact in her community. What is even more amazing is that Nour is only a high school senior, and already tackling major challenges facing the Arab American community.  

Nour’s mother is Tunisian and her father is Moroccan. Both of her parents never finished high school and because of that, she says they have striven to give her a better life. “I am very grateful for their sacrifices to get me here,” she said.

Her introduction to MEAAG came after hearing about the internship opportunity through her high school’s career center. She went to a public MEAAG meeting and was struck by the fact that community members showed an interest in Arab American issues. 

Nour’s participation in MEAAG has given her the opportunity to use her passion for service and creativity. One of the first tasks she was given was to create a social media presence, including a Facebook page. As an active social media user, it was a simple first step in working with MEAAG which resulted in a greater online presence for the organization.

Shortly after that, she created an information table representing the country of Egypt in the World of Montgomery Festival. The festival is hosted annually to celebrate the rich ethnic diversity in Montgomery County. Eleven countries participated including China, El-Salvador, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Jamaica & Barbados, Korea, Thailand, Turkey, and Ukraine. Although this festival was in its 9th year, it was the first year an Arab country was represented. Despite her heavy class load, Nour worked diligently to ensure the Egyptian table was engaging and represented accurately. She also created a Facebook group for the festival which reached over 40,000 people on social media in only a few weeks. 

By all accounts, the table was a beautiful representation of the rich history and culture Egypt has to offer. In addition, Nour wanted to incorporate an interactive component to the table, so she organized a photo booth to engage those in attendance.  

Now that the festival is over, Oubenali is already talking about her next MEAAG project: the Youth Interfaith Committee. Although in its early stages, the the overall goal is to “create a bridge between students of all faiths through community-based events.” The first event is one she hopes will draw people in with a fun activity such as Arab-themed dance classes. From there, she would like to see student groups meet on a regular basis to strengthen relationships based on shared values.  

Her passion for service does not stop with her involvement in MEAAG. It also drives her career path. Nour’s interests are in the sciences, but it is part of a larger picture. She stressed, “the only reason why I have a passion for science is so I can use it help my community and help people back home.”

Nour is a shining example of the importance of youth community involvement and service. The dichotomy between her favorite school subjects and what she does with MEAAG seems disconnected, but Oubenali emphasized, “with science, I can just affect Montgomery County, but with MEAAG maybe I can affect all of Maryland.”

Sydney Roeder is a 2017 fall intern at the Arab American Institute.