Potomac Falls senior Mena Ayazi aspires to make a difference in the world far beyond Loudoun County.
“I want to square away a job where I can bring change on a global scale,” Ayazi said.
Fortunately, Ayazi has a lot of people to look up to - and she's already started her efforts.
Ayazi's parents both came to the United States from Afghanistan shortly after the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979.
Ayazi’s grandfather, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, is one of her biggest inspirations. After raising a family of eight while working as an accountant in Alexandria, he returned to his native Kandahar to serve as his town’s mayor.
“He built roads and schools and advocated for women's rights,” Ayazi said.
On July 27, 2011, Ayazi’s grandfather was killed by a suicide bomber who had hidden explosives in his turban.
“I hope to become one-tenth of the [person] he was,” she said.
Today, Ayazi continues her grandfather’s legacy along with her aunt, Rangina Hamidi.
In 2003, Hamidi founded Kandahar Treasure. Afghan women create décor and clothing called Khamak that the organization sells around the world. Products are made from embroideries thought to have been lost in the war.
“It's a very traditional piece of art that is unique to Kandahar,” Ayazi said.
Ayazi initially helped in little ways, such as putting price tags on clothing and sorting products. But as she got older, she started taking a bigger role by taking the products to markets around the country.
One of the places she went was the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, which has art from 87 countries. “I got to represent my culture and my heritage and I got to celebrate all the other cultures around the world,” Ayazi said.
Ayazi's passion for making a difference is evident in the myriad of other activities she does. At her high school, she founded the UNICEF Club, which helps bring awareness and raises funds for various overseas causes. She also serves as an editor with Roar, her school's newspaper; is a member of the varsity debate team; and works on the student council as the creative director. Ayazi also is president of the Potomac Falls Muslim Student Association.
She says her faith helped instill her devotion to volunteerism. “In Islam, being charitable and giving back to the community is a big thing. It's a part of me and my culture.”
Next year, Ayazi will attend George Mason University. She plans to major in global affairs or conflict resolution with a minor in journalism. After that, she hopes to go to law school.
From there, she's not sure where she'll land, but she knows she wants to bring a positive change to the world.
“I have so many opportunities before me,” Ayazi said. “It's time to get stuff done.”
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