By Salar*, PAIR Global Leaders student president
Throughout my life, I have met hundreds of people. However, only a special few have had the ability to make a long impact.
Six months ago, I met one woman in particular who has greatly influenced my life and helped make me who I am today. That woman is Ms. Amanda Ashley Grant. In 2009, she graduated from the University of Texas in Austin, where she concentrated in Middle Eastern Studies, Islamic Studies, and Arabic Studies. She currently works with the nonprofit Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR) as an AmeriCorps VISTA. PAIR connects young refugees with college and community volunteers to build positive mentoring relationships and provides programs that empower refugee students to reach their highest potential. She is the program manager of PAIR Global Leaders, which serves over sixty high school refugee students at Westbury High School. It is my fourth year in PAIR programs.
Ms. Amanda has made a big difference in my life. She has a small stature but a huge, loving heart. She is a very kind person. Her eyes are open to identify where help is needed, and then she is quick to take action. She has inspired me to pursue my dreams, achieve my goals, and to get as much education as I can. In addition, she tells me never to give up and encourages me to be a great leader. She pushes me to fulfill my potential. She cares about me, as well as all the other students in Global Leaders, coming to visit each of us at home to get to know our families. She taught me how to meet new people and practice interpersonal skills, while impressing upon me the importance of such traits as honesty and integrity. I love her fun-filled, vivacious personality. There is never a day when she doesn’t share a smile with me.
Ms. Amanda has done so many things for me, but all I can do in return is say thank you and try my best at whatever I do. She has taught me the value of recognizing positive qualities in others and encouraging people with words and action. There is a vibrant, ever-flowing energy inside Ms. Amanda that motivates her to work with enthusiasm. She works extremely hard in her office, at school, and at home to help improve the lives of refugee students like me. She works day and night, even sacrificing sleep and rest, to make our futures better, to change the world one PAIR student at a time, and to make history in our lives.
Each week, I look forward to working with Ms. Amanda at PAIR. The world could use more people like her. It would certainly be a better place. We only have a few months left with PAIR Global Leaders this year but I still have to learn a lot from her. She has taught me the importance of dreams, goals, and the art of pursuing them with courage, determination, and a heart that is ready to listen and to serve others with compassion and empathy. I sincerely wish to be like Ms. Amanda when I grow up, equipped to empower others with desire and ability to reach their dreams.
Salar is originally from Afghanistan and has been involved in
PAIR programs since he was resettled in Houston four years ago. This
year, he was elected by his peers as student president of the Global
Leaders program at Westbury High School. Salar wrote this essay in March
about someone influential in his life as part of an application for a
special summer program for students interested in business. He loves
numbers and is exploring career options involving math.
*PAIR uses pseudonyms to protect the identity of our students.