Meet 2018 - 19 NNAAC Fellow Maya Allaf!

NNAAC’s Transformative Leaders Fellowship Program develops crucial leadership skills in select university students and recent graduates across the country through an ongoing partnership with our various member organizations. These aspiring young adults learn more about the issues facing Arab American communities, see how nonprofits are managed, and work toward creating a personal professional growth plan.

Get to know Maya Allaf, one of our 2018-19 fellows, in our interview with her below.

Maya Allaf

Alif Institute

Why did you join the Leadership Fellowship?
When the Syrian War sprung while I was in high school, I wanted to become more engaged in my Arab culture considering I was not able to get that dose of culture back in Syria anymore. I found out about Alif Institute and fell in love with the fact that the Institute focused on so many aspects of Arab life and cultures. When I found out I can contribute to their mission through the Transformative Leaders Fellowship program, I knew I had to do it.

What is your favorite quality about your host-site organization?
Alif Institute acknowledges that there isn't just one Arab culture, and it enforces that idea/fact through different types of events and activities. From movie screenings, to specific country nights, to poetry, calligraphy, food, and many other things, Alif sets an integral example of an inclusive "Middle East."

How does this program fit into your future plans?
I am currently an intern for the State Department and plan on working with the State Department in some way in the future. Being a part of this program teaches me how to dive deep into world cultures and learn the different components of people around the world, which are the exact "skills" the State Department looks for.

What is a personal goal that you would like to achieve?
Although I am here to help Alif's mission in promoting arts and cultures, I hope to grow as a person and in knowledge of Arab stories and cultures. I hope to gain a deeper understanding of what Arabs throughout history have struggled with in the United States and have an idea as to how these issues may be resolved.

What is a professional goal that you would like to achieve?
I hope to understand what it's truly like to run a nonprofit based on cultures, rather than charity. This includes gaining skillsets such as running a "one-person" show by being forced to learn many different skills (from site running, designing, writing/editing, promoting awareness to others, etc.).

Why do you think programs like this are important?
As I mentioned in the first question, I sought after Alif Institute when I was in high school and was worried that my inability of visiting Syria would hinder being in touch with my Arab culture. There are others that may not even know anything about their Arab background and seek to learn about their family background. There are thousands of Americans whose families came to the U.S. in the 1900s and don't have an idea about what their family members where here for, and what their culture is about. During times of political turmoil and xenophobia, programs like this are integral not only for Arabs to have, but also for the U.S. as whole. Programs like this show a different side to Arabs not known by many Americans.

Describe yourself in three words.
Animated, determined, understanding

The National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) Transformative Leaders Fellowship Program increases the capacity of our member organizations to provide additional support to their communities, while at the same time develops crucial leadership skills in the fellows themselves. The program engages college students and/or recent graduates over a nine-month placement with a NNAAC member organization. Fellows are recruited by NNAAC members locally, and in partnership with universities. Learn more.

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