(February 13, 2019) Catherine Read sits down with Abrar Omeish, co-founder of GIVE Youth (Growth and Inspiration through Volunteering and Education) about the organization she helped to found, and her candidacy for the Fairfax County School Board.
Omeish and her friends came up with the concept of GIVE when they were in high school at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax. They identified a need in the community among low-income students who could not afford expensive tutors and academic prep courses to help them stay competitive when it came to applying to colleges. Additionally, they saw that many of these students did not have role models or mentors to look up to.
Omeish and her contemporaries founded GIVE in 2010, with the mission of promoting civic engagement and giving back to the community. Their goal is to invest in the next generation by striving to provide opportunities to those who seek them in the fields of education, empowerment and leadership. The program gives teens the opportunity to serve as mentors to young children, provides resources to underprivileged students, and promotes the importance of an enthusiastic attitude toward learning.
Starting in the basement of her parents’ home, Omeish and her friends organized and planned the launch of their first tutoring and mentoring site at the Mason District Government Center. Since that time, they have grown GIVE to over 20 centers throughout the county. What is truly remarkable about GIVE is that it continues to be run solely by students. They have various work groups that focus on different aspects of their organization, such as web development, fundraising, volunteer mobilization, student engagement and parent outreach.
GIVE focuses on pairing high school students with elementary school children, with the goal of developing relationships, inspiring younger students and helping to create continuity in the lives of the younger children. Many times, these young children do not have many strong role models in their life, so having an older student who gets to know them can be enough encouragement that helps them believe in themselves and have success in the classroom. Omeish notes that the high school students learn through the experience of teaching, and they get as much as the younger kids do out of the entire experience.
Additionally, the more experienced Board members help to mentor the new board members by teaching them how to run the organization. They also lift each other up during the college application process, and help one another by reading essays and giving feedback. GIVE aims to build community in a variety of ways.
In the second segment of the show Catherine speaks with Abrar about her run for at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board. She is passionate about creating a school system that offers equity and inclusion in education for all students, no matter where they live or what their ability is. Her idea of targeted universalism, where teachers prepare for the hardest case scenario, will create an environment where all students can achieve success.
As Omeish matriculated through the FCPS school system, she noticed the inequities that exist for low-income students. As a student, she worked to close the achievement gap through her founding of GIVE. Her run for school board is an extension of this philosophy, and she is excited to launch her campaign. She strongly believes that the diversity in Fairfax is one of its greatest strengths, and she would like to see more representation in both the teaching and administrative staff, as well as amongst the school board members. She strives to draw on her experience to move these issues forward, while also inspiring and standing up for children.