Ann Arbor teen gets national recognition for volunteer efforts

ANN ARBOR – Ayesha Nadeem was recently recognized as a 2022 Carson Scholar for her academic achievements and community service efforts.

The high school sophomore, who attends both Central Academy and Washtenaw Community College, was the only Washtenaw County student to win the award after volunteering more than 600 hours of her free time in the local community.

Each year, Carson Scholars across the country receive $1,000 college scholarships from neurosurgeon and former U.S. presidential candidate Ben Carson and his wife, Candy. Additionally, she was also the recipient of a 2022 Michigan Community Impact Award and has been recognized by the United Nations and United Way of Washtenaw County for her community service.

Nadeem said her love for volunteering began at a young age when her mother took her and her siblings to volunteer for Food Gatherers and their local library.

Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she discovered virtual volunteering.

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From helping autistic adults find jobs to teaching karate, Nadeem was passionate about helping others and continued her efforts locally.

Nadeem is a black belt in karate. (Aisha Nadim)

She and her sister founded Covered In STEM, or CI STEM, to teach middle and high school girls how to code.

“I wear a hijab and so does my sister, so we’re ‘covered’,” Nadeem said. “We noticed that a lot of Muslim girls were not going into engineering. You can tell them about the fields, but they may not be encouraged to go there.

The project generated local interest and they held several workshops throughout the year with 15-20 girls at a time. What started at Central Academy turned into a massive project and they used word of mouth, Slack groups and Discord to attract as many participants as possible.

The sessions took place over Zoom and were very popular, Nadeem said.

Another project she has played a central role in is the Ypsilanti District Library Teen Advisory Group. After starting as a volunteer, she is now doing an internship at the library. She helped secure a $24,000 grant for the group’s mental health pack program which drops free packs at Ozone House and other locations to help local teens connect with resources and gain skills. skills.

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“We teenagers design them and invent what’s in them,” she said. “It’s really all the teenagers involved.”

She said seeing the difference that spending time with others makes her continue her volunteer efforts in the community.

Nadeem has been volunteering in Washtenaw County since he was eight years old. (Aisha Nadim)

“It also breaks stereotypes,” she said. “Even through virtual volunteering, a lot of people are surprised when someone like me does something positive.”

“There are so many people who need it and appreciate it,” she added. “I participated in a reading group. There are so many children whose parents can’t even read English. When you help the child, you help the family. You can help one person, but it can help many others.

Another aspect of volunteering that she enjoys is the way it allows her to meet people outside of her immediate circle.

“Obviously we have our bubble, our peers, our teachers,” she said. “If you participate in a school activity, you rub shoulders with the same people. A great way to meet people outside of this familiar setting is through community service. You can be in a group with someone from a very privileged school or a very disadvantaged family and you come together for one purpose, and you come home thinking: maybe my life is not not so bad.

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