NNAAC Fellow Ruba: Program shows me I love to work with others
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.
Get to know Ruba El-Kadri, one of the impressive 2014-15 fellows, in our interview with her below.
"The NNAACC Fellowship Program has shown me how much I love to work with others and how much I love helping my community and the people in it."
24 years old
University of Toronto - 2013 graduate, bachelor's degree in Political Science and French
Q: Why did you join NNAAC’s Transformative Fellowship Program?
A: I moved to Dearborn after getting married in November 2013. Being new to the city, I wanted to find something that would introduce me to people in the community and offer me an opportunity to get to know my fellow residents and the city that I now call home. I heard about NNAACC’s Transformative Fellowship Program through ACCESS in Dearborn. I immediately took interest in the organization and the program and felt that it would be a great leadership opportunity for me. It offered me a chance to make new connections and to help out my community at the same time.
Q: With which organization are you placed and what are you learning about the organization?
A: I have been placed at ACCESS on Schaefer Road in Dearborn. I work in the Social Services Department, specifically with the Center for Working Families. I also do a lot of case work; I meet with a lot of clients and help them apply for things such as food, cash, and medical assistance. I also provide clients with translation services; they may need me to call their service providers about bills, or call their case workers about any issues or concerns that they may have. I am learning that ACCESS is a well-known go-to for many people in the community, and we offer our clients more than just simple application services; we offer them the opportunity to learn and grow within their community.
Q: What kinds of projects are you working on?
A: I have been working with the Center for Working Families to look for grants that could improve the program and offer clients more options on their road to becoming strong and independent individuals. I have also been meeting with a lot of clients and learning about the Department of Human Services in Michigan and the services that they provide. I will also be shadowing the immigration department in the near future in order to get an idea of what kinds of issues people who are seeking US citizenship face and to learn the process of gaining citizenship in the US. I am also interested in the TAKE ON HATE campaign that NNAACC runs, and am looking for opportunities to work with them on projects that help to eliminate racism, stereotype, and hate in the community.
Q: What are you learning about the Arab American community?
A: Being quite new to Dearborn, this experience has been very eye-opening for me. I am learning so much about the Arab-American community everyday. The thing that stands out most to me is the sense of family that exists within the community; people are very tight-knit and look for every opportunity to help one another in any way that they can. I am also learning that a lot of Arab-Americans in Dearborn struggle to get acclimated into the community at times; while Arab culture is very strong in the city, many struggle with the English language and the “American” culture that exists. There are also many Arab-American seniors in the community who need a lot of help; fortunately, many of them know that ACCESS’ doors are always open and make use of the resources that the organization offers. At the end of the day, the Arab-American community in Dearborn is very large and very diverse, and strives to hang on to Arab culture and practices while embracing American culture as well.
Q: How is the program making you a leader?
A: This program is offering me so many opportunities to learn and grow as a person. It is teaching me valuable leadership skills such as communication, teamwork, and organization. I am learning the importance of being able to communicate clearly and concisely with co-workers and clients alike. With communication comes listening as well; a leader doesn’t just talk, she also listens. If I do not listen carefully to my clients’ needs, I will not be able to help them. I am also learning the importance of working with others and splitting tasks; a leader does not have to do everything; it is okay to let others take on tasks as well. It is also imperative that I stay organized and punctual; this job has taught me the importance of time-management.
Q: What are at least three skills you are gaining from the program so far?
A: I have gained so many valuable skills from this fellowship. One skill that I am very happy with is the improvement of my Arabic; because so many of my clients do not speak English, I have been able to strengthen my Arabic through this job.
I have also learned the importance of being confident. I cannot doubt my abilities, because if I do, then my clients will also doubt my abilities. This does not mean that I am always right, but it means that I should not doubt myself and should be confident in the decisions that I make.
My organization skills have also improved as a result of the program; I am learning to better organize and schedule my time both at work and at home. Time management is critical when it comes to being a good leader.
Q: How is the program affecting your future plans (i.e. school or career path)?
A: The NNAACC Fellowship Program has shown me how much I love to work with others and how much I love helping my community and the people in it. I am really thinking about going back to school and doing a Masters in Social Work. I loved the case work aspect of ACCESS so much that I would love to take that even further. It has shown me how much of a positive impact I can have on my community.
I have also taken a great interest in immigration and the process of gaining citizenship in the US. I am also thinking about going back to law school and pursuing a career in immigration law.
I know for sure that I want to go back to graduate school in order to further my skills and give myself more avenues to help others in my community.
Q: What is your favorite part of the program so far?
A: I absolutely love helping others. This program has offered me the chance to help so many individuals in my community. Just knowing that I helped just one person and getting a thank you from them makes my day! I also love meeting new people. I get to know so many people on a daily basis, and I hear so many interesting stories about the people in our community and their everyday struggles and achievements as well.
Q: Would you recommend the program to others?
A: I would definitely recommend this program to others! This fellowship offers individuals the opportunity to discover their strengths and weaknesses, and to find out their likes and dislikes. It gives you an avenue to help people in your community in so many ways. It’s also a great networking opportunity for those who are trying to meet new people and expand their horizons. Overall, the NNAACC fellowship program is the perfect opportunity for anyone to grow as a leader and learn so many new and valuable skills.