Just Communities Celebrates 10 Years of Building Youth Leadership
My name is Antoin Douglawi. Ten years ago I had the opportunity and privilege to participate in the very first CommUnity Leadership Institute (CLI). I am also a second year medical student at USC Keck School of Medicine with a focus in surgery. While these two accomplishments may not seem related, for me
was a program that literally changed the trajectory of my future.
One of my most vivid memories from High School is the moment when my school counselor told me that I needed to "aim lower"when considering colleges to attend. She told me that I did not have a good chance of matriculating into top tier schools due to my language barrier. Since immigrating to the US from Syria at age 12, I had endured years of ridicule from fellow students, but this comment was an especially harsh blow. Shortly after this incident, my English teacher recommended that I attend CLI over the summer to help me practice my English. Since most of my previous peer interactions were negative, leaving me feeling isolated and excluded, I was reluctant to attend. But, because I was offered a scholarship, I agreed to go.
When I arrived at the site, I was instantly struck by the communal atmosphere and the helpfulness and inclusiveness of both the staff and participants. My language barrier till that day had been just that; a barrier. But at CLI there seemed to be no barriers between anyone; it felt like family. Through sharing experiences and stories in our large groups, I was shocked to hear what other students had been through.I realized that I was not alone and that many of us were going through similar experiences, each within our individual contexts. It is amazing how comforting such a simple realization can be. It created an instant sense of unity and community among 50 of us, who had only known each other for a few days.
I left CLI with a set of lifelong friends and with a sense of empowerment, confidence, and community that I still carry with me to this day. I also gained an affirming awareness that there are people among us, fighting for justice and promoting inclusion at school, work, and in the community.But CLI was not just about highlighting the injustice that is done to people every day - it was about what we can do to change it. It was about empowering us with the confidence and the knowledge to make a difference in our lives as well as the lives of others.
The experiences I had at CLI and the exposure it gave me to other cultures opened my eyes to the plight of many people who have no voice in our society. It inspired me to not be an idle observer of injustice, but to intervene and do what I can to help. As a high school student, I became a leader and activist in my school and I volunteered as a youth leader at CLI every summer to help pass along the knowledge that I had gained. As an adult and medical student, I now regularly volunteer at mobile clinics to help underprivileged populations in Mexico. I also use the lessons that I learned to work with the diverse population that I see at USC LA County hospital.
If I had not received a scholarship to attend
CLI, my life would be vastly different. Without CLI and the generous support of people like you, I never would have been empowered with the maturity and cultural competence I needed to succeed as a young immigrant.CLI also exposed me to the universal human struggle that to this day guides my vision for my future practice as a physician.
Please help support other students who, like me, are our communities' future doctors, teachers, elected officials, activists, and leaders by giving them the opportunity and privilege to be a CLIgraduate.I encourage you to join me in donating toJust Communities' CommUnity Leadership Institute 2013.
Thank you for your support,
Want to help students like Antoin? Here's how!
Every year teams of students from all actoss the Central Coast come to CLI to learn about social inequities that affect our lives and communities. Each team creates an action plan to guide their efforts once they leave CLI. The accomplishments listed on the right are those dreams that came to life.Every club started, forum held, and dollar raised came to be because a powerful youth took the tools given to them at CLI and made it happen.
This would not be possible without the support of donors like you who provide the funds to hold
CLI each year and support CLI graduates year round. Many of our students come from families who are unable to pay their tuition to CLI. Just Communities will not turn awat any student due to lack of funds. A donation of just $25.00 a month provides 5 nights of room and board for a student in need; that's over half their stay at CLI!
We hope you will consider becoming a monthly donor of $25.00 or any amount that is meaningful to you in support of Just Communities'
CommUnity Leadership Institute. Click here to donate now.
Jarrod Schwartz Elizabeth Weinstein
Executive Director Development Associate