NJ: Muslim Girl Fights Poverty


NJ: MUSLIM GIRL FIGHTS POVERTY

Aseel Najib promotes religious understanding. That's one of the qualities that resulted in her being picked as one of 25 future world leaders.

It means she sends e-cards for Hanukkah to her Jewish friends and gets remembrances from them during Ramadan.

Unusual? No, that's what Youth for Charity is all about. It teaches mutual understanding among young women of different ethnic backgrounds while at the same time working to end poverty and homelessness.

Youth for Charity, based in North Bergen, is just one of the charitable pursuits that figure into Najib's crowded schedule.

"It's so important for people of different religions to reach out and build bridges, not burn them. When you work together good comes out of it," says Najib, 17, of Clifton about her community outreach involvement.

A junior at Al Ghazaly, a private Muslim school in Teaneck, Najib gets top grades. She volunteers in a North Bergen physician's office and is active in an organization called Stamp Out Hate. Najib, who was born in Saudi Arabia, takes advanced placement courses and participates in Mock Trial and Model U.N. programs. She speaks Arabic and English and is working on her Spanish because that is the language of some of the patients at the doctor's office.

She discusses her goals and beliefs seated on a white damask couch in the living room of her parents' ranch-style home. Barefoot and wearing jeans, she has her head wrapped in a blue, white and black abstract-patterned hijab.

Over the winter one of her teachers nominated her for an international leadership award called 2007 Tomorrow25. She was one of a few hundred accomplished students nominated by business and community leaders, teachers, school administrators and guidance counselors. A panel of judges at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., narrowed it down to 25 outstanding high school juniors, and Najib made the cut.

The program, now in its third year, is co-sponsored by Time magazine, which supplied speakers for an April leadership forum. The theme was "The Business of Healing Our World." More than half of the winners were from the United States, and others hailed from Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Turkey. In addition to New Jersey, they came from California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Minnesota.

 


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