Isabella Arroyo is one of our outstanding youth fellows this year. As a senior at Khalil Gibran International Academy she has been exposed to Arab culture during her high school years and joined AAFSC initially as a volunteer to learn more about the Arab American community near her school. Isabella says that knowledge of the Arabic language opened the door for cultural understanding and Arabic has been an enjoyable subject throughout her high school studies. As a freshman she fell in love with Arabic as her class was very small and highly impersonal. Isabella admits that she went into KGIA with many media-driven stereotypes about Arabs and their culture, but is glad to have had numerous opportunities to break these stereotypes. At school, every Friday there is a special focus on Arab culture, where students of all backgrounds come to learn about traditions and holidays such as weddings, Ramadan, and Eid. Isabella especially enjoys eating all of the delicious food that is brought for these days.
As she prepares to send in her college applications this winter, Isabella is leaning towards attending a big out-of-state school. Since her high school is relatively small – a total population just over 200 students – Isabella hopes to spend her college years at a bigger school to increase her chances of interacting with many different people. Although unsure of her career goals at the moment, Isabella hopes to study applied mathematics and science. She sees herself continuing her work with non-profit organizations in the future as well, if not as a full-time employee, then certainly as a volunteer.
Isabella’s own community lies on the border between East New York and Brownsville. She is saddened by the lack of community pride its members have and the negative associations with the community. She wants to counteract this with positive projects, especially those with an environmental emphasis. Aware that recycling is a significant issue in her neighborhood, Isabella is determined to shed awareness about the need for a proper recycling system in her community and eventually get people to take action.
School takes up the bulk of Isabella’s time and even after school hours she finds herself staying later to converse with her teachers, whom she loves and finds fascinating. At KGIA, she serves on the Student Council, and is currently the leader of both of the committees in charge of planning the senior trip and prom. After she leaves school. she makes her way over to AAFSC where she works with the youth and meets with her advisor, Esraa Saleh, to work on projects pertaining to her fellowship. Through her fellowship this year, Isabella aspires to build a campaign revolving around Islamophobia and to explore what she can do as a non-Muslim to raise awareness about this pertinent issue.
-Yasmina Ibrahim, Communications and Development Fellow