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Sharing our community

By McKenzie Zobrist

Yasmeen Saadi, 16, is an understanding, empathetic teen from Overland Park, Kansas, who describes herself as a thinker.

She uses those thinking skills in her activities, such as helping CommunityAmerica find solutions for problems due to COVID-19, writing features for the Red Cross, helping inner city kids in a program called Project Read, writing for her school newspaper and yearbook, and even dancing and playing piano.

She attributes much of her thinking to her heritage and the way she has been reared.

“I grew up around a lot of different cultures and religions, and through hearing each of their perspectives, I was able to gain a greater appreciation for culture and diversity in general,” she said.

Saadi’s mother is half Filipino and half Vietnamese, but she was born in Canada. Her father is from Pakistan and was reared Muslim, whereas her mother grew up as a Catholic. Her grandfather on her mother’s side, however, was reared Buddhist. Saadi and her brother Ilyas, 13, were reared Muslim.

“I think the ability to learn from my family has made me more understanding and more open to the different communities around me,” Saadi said.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Saadi wanted to continue understanding and helping communities around her. She reached out to CommunityAmerica, a credit union in Kansas, to intern with a group of teenagers. The goal of the internship was to solve problems created by COVID-19 through a competition. Saadi’s group decided to help the elderly. She explained that nursing homes in her area have isolation policies where residents aren’t allowed to see anyone.

“Seeing how lonely we were, we couldn’t even imagine how lonely they must be,” she said.

Her group’s idea to create a program that allowed volunteers to speak with the elderly in nursing homes over the internet made it to the finals of the intern competition. The volunteer would not be randomly paired, but rather selected through an algorithm to have something in common with the nursing home resident. Saadi and her group plan to continue their work even though the internship is over.

Prior to her work with CommunityAmerica, Saadi sought out other activities to stay involved in her community.

“I’m so privileged, and I’m blessed with amazing parents, teachers and resources, so if I’m able to make use of everything I have and help those who weren’t given those same privileges, it’s really the least I can do,” she said.

Saadi has been working with Project R.E.A.D (Richly Educated and Determined), a club started by her high school to help inner city children learn how to read, how to do math, and how to write. Additionally, she helped write features for the Red Cross on volunteers that have been with the organization for many years.

While the Coronavirus pandemic brought everything to a halt, she managed to find online dance courses and piano lessons to fill her time. Saadi is playing piano pieces by Robert Schumann, a composer known for his bipolar disorder.

“His music will be really calm, and then just be crazy,” she said.” It makes his music more complex, and I’ve had fun trying to find myself in his music.”

The music is like Saadi in the way she is creating calmness out of the chaos of the current situation.

“Especially now, it’s becoming very apparent how much needs to change in our society, and how much misinformation is being spread,” she said.

Eventually she wants to become a journalist for a newspaper or news station, specifically overseas because of how little the coverage is.

“I think journalism and the media play a very important role in helping to spread the truth and bring to light issues that people might not be aware of so that they can make more educated decisions going forward that will help our society progress.”