NNAAC Fellow Manel Sentouhi: Every moment is a learning experience

NNAAC’s Transformative Fellowship Program (formerly the Youth Fellowship Program) develops crucial leadership skills in select university students 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. 

Meet Manel Sentouhi, one of the inspiring 2014-15 fellows, in our interview with her below.


"My favorite part about the program is knowing that the clients and youth I work with at my organization are not only learning from me, but I am learning from them."

Manel Sentouhi

21 years old
Brooklyn, New York
New York University

Q: Why did you join NNAAC’s Transformative Fellowship Program?

A: I joined NNAAC’s Transformative Fellowship Program because I was attracted to the tremendous guidance and exposure the program would give me into better understanding the non-profit world. I really wanted to learn more about how nonprofits function while also working with and serving an urban immigrant community.

Q: With which organization are you placed and what are you learning about the organization?

A: My placement is at the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY). I work within both the Immigration and Advocacy Departments, while also facilitating various youth programs. When working in the Immigration Department, I work closely with our immigration caseworker and together we meet with clients to assist them in filing appropriate immigration forms. The work I do in the Advocacy Department is centered around bringing issues faced by the Arab-American community, and oftentimes the general community, to the forefront and making sure awareness is raised about these issues in hopes of then moving towards positive solutions. Awareness takes form in campaign support, petitioning, and social media exposure. Aside from doing this great work, I am also given the freedom to develop and facilitate programs at AAANY and I’ve surely taken advantage of this. I run a Youth Leadership Program, while also coordinating our organization's SAT Prep Program.

Through doing this work, I am learning exactly how vital the services and programs are which we provide for the community. I am also learning that AAANY is not only an organization which provides these services, but it provides a space for people to be active members within the community.  

Q: What kinds of projects are you working on?

A: Currently, I’ve been working on restructuring the SAT Prep Program. I am also working on creating workshops as part of the Youth Leadership Program to facilitate for our incoming spring youth interns.      

Q: What are you learning about the Arab American community?

A: During my time working at AAANY, I’ve witnessed immense gratitude from the Arab American community. Whether it be towards our staff, our interns, our volunteers, or to each other, the Arab American community is more than grateful for the assistance and guidance provided. This willingness to help one another within the Arab American community at our organization provides for a very supportive environment; something many of our immigrant clients look for.

Q: How is the program making you a leader?

A: This program is giving me the opportunity to gain and strengthen various leadership skills while working at AAANY. Public speaking, program facilitation, and effective communication are all some of the skills I’ve been able to exercise and build.    

Q: What are at least three skills you are gaining from the program so far?

A: Being able to facilitate programs is a skill I’ve gained. You certainly cannot master facilitation skills from reading books or articles; it truly takes practice, and I have been fortunate to be able to exercise these skills through this program.

Communication, through facilitating youth workshops, speaking with clients during immigration appointments, and through group projects, is a skill I’ve been able to better strengthen.

In addition to facilitation and communication skills, managing and prioritizing my work tasks is a skill I’ve gained. When working at a non-profit which offers numerous services and programs, daily tasks can certainly pile-up. To address this, I’ve learned the skills to best manage my work.  

Q: How is the program affecting your future plans (i.e. school or career path)?

A: As a double major in Political Science and Metropolitan Studies, I have great interest in learning and understanding the functionality, growth, and structures of urban communities. Being able to work with an urban immigrant community has certainly furthered my interest in these area.

Much of my work constitutes direct services and the joy I receive from being able to assist clients has only further strengthened my want of having a career, which, directly or indirectly, is benefiting the community.

Q: What is your favorite part of the program so far?

A: My favorite part about the program is knowing that the clients and youth I work with at my organization are not only learning from me, but I am learning from them. From me, the clients gain assistance and guidance, and from them, I am learning essential skills needed when working with the community. Every moment is a learning experience and this is certainly my favorite part of the program!  

Q: Would you recommend the program to others?

A: I would definitely recommend the program! For those looking to gain experience working in a non-profit, while also looking to strengthen leadership skills; this program is a perfect match.  

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