Fadi, 17-years-old, has been coming to AAFSC since he first arrived to New York from Yemen 10 years ago. This summer, Fadi taught his very own fashion class every Thursday at our 6-week summer camp. We sat down with Fadi to hear more about his fashion knowledge, his first teaching experience, and why he loves AAFSC.
AAFSC: How long have you been interested in fashion?
Fadi: Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always liked drawing dresses. When it was time to apply to high school, I was thinking about not going and working instead. I really didn’t like middle school, so I was planning not to go to high school, but then I saw that there was a high school specialized for fashion. Jennifer [former Americorps VISTSA at AAFSC] was really helpful, and helped me apply, and she even went to the high school with me instead of my parents. She is a big part of my life.
I applied and got in and I was there for about a year and a half but then I left to another school because I was focusing too much on fashion and it was hurting me academically. I also got an internship to work with JSong, which taught me so much, like about pattern-making and business.
AAFSC: How did you come to teach the fashion class at AAFSC’s summer camp?
Fadi: Ambreen [AAFSC Deputy Executive Director] and Colin [Youth Program Manager] planned out the idea of doing a fashion class, and instead of getting a professional, they asked me to do it. I consider that really sweet of them and I don’t know how to thank them.
AAFSC: What have you liked about teaching? What have you learned from the experience?
Fadi: I adore little kids even though I don’t have a lot of patience for them. I do like teaching because it makes you grow up in a way. Like, when I want to act a certain type of way towards an adult, I think about how I wouldn’t want a student to act that way towards me, so I realize how that adult is not going to want me to act towards them. It gives you a different perspective.
I love that it’s my class, and I get to teach something I like. I’m also learning while I’m teaching them. I am teaching them pattern making, and it’s not like just because I’m teaching it that I know everything about it; I’m learning as I’m teaching them, and sometimes I go home and watch videos because I still don’t know how to do it. What I learn is what I teach them, and what they’re learning is what they teach me. Some kids will be like, “Oh I could do this this way,” and I’m like “Wow, I never saw that before!” So I’m learning from them as well.
AAFSC: How did you prepare for teaching your class? What have the kids been making?
Fadi: I planned out lesson plans for the first week but as the program goes on, I feel like if I plan it out, I over plan it, and it never goes as I plan it so I wait until the day and see what I should do. The boys designed T-shirts, and I hope we will make menswear in September. I like how you get to see people express themselves when they design their shirts. They are very creative.
The girls are making dresses, and we didn’t really pick out a theme. I just told them to design what they like. It’s working out really well, and so far their dresses are looking nice.
AAFSC: Did you always want to be a teacher?
Fadi: I always thought about teaching, but it was just like “Oh, I’ll be a teacher!” you know, as a joke, but now I see that actually doing it is fun. I’m actually doing other volunteer things right now, like going to elementary schools and teaching children and playing math games with them. I do like teaching but I wouldn’t do it as a career in the future.
AAFSC: What has been the most challenging part of the experience?
Fadi: I can’t speak to the students the way that I speak with my friends, or with adults. I have to speak in a way where they can understand me, a way where they feel comfortable around me, so I try to be as friendly as I can. I always speak Arabic with them. It’s a good thing I speak Arabic because I feel like if someone else had taught that class they would have had a problem with translation.
I was surprised by how patient I could be and how I was able to talk to the kids like an actual adult. The students are still children, and they can sometimes have an attitude, so I’m learning how to be patient, and that’s good because that’s one thing that I’m still learning too, you know, how to talk to people. I feel like I understand myself more.
AAFSC: What has been your favorite part?
Fadi: My favorite part is actually getting a chance to teach. Just the fact that I was asked to actually teach this class. I know it might not sound like much to others, but to me, it’s something special. A lot of times when I talk to people, they talk to me like I’m still a child, which is something that doesn’t upset me, but I get kind of annoyed by, because I feel like people are calling me immature. So, the fact that the center let me teach a class with the students here, it lets me know that they think of me not as a child but as an adult and a mature person. They know I am able to handle the class, and that makes me feel very special and very happy about myself. It feels like they trust me. The center has seen a lot of me, like they’ve known me almost my whole life and I literally live here, it’s another home for me. They know me inside out, and the fact that they trust me to teach a class with the kids, it’s just like, wow. It makes me feel loved, like I’m trusted, like I’m responsible. So I love to tell everyone on the street, I’m a fashion educator at AAFSC!