December Student of the Month

December Student of the Month

Congratulations to Asala Mansour for being nominated as the IRIS December student of the month! Your unwavering courage and passionate values do not go unnoticed.

Placed in small town Blairsburg, Iowa, Asala Mansour from Israel/Arab Communities uses every day to change the stereotypes people have about her culture and religion. Since being in America she has found her inner ambassador, has tried a variety of new activities, and openly shares about her experiences.

Asala playing backgammon with her host family.

Asala playing backgammon with her host family.

Asala was recently accepted to attend the Civic Education Workshop, a weeklong workshop in Washington D.C. where attendees learn about the U.S. government, attend workshops, site see and meet with policy makers. To attend the workshop, students had to fill out an application and write an essay within the first month of being in the states. Only 100 students are selected from the entire group of YES students on program this year.

“I could really just sum this up like this: as much as it’s important for our land to be free, liberating our minds is more important,” said Mansour about her application essay.

During International Education Week Asala presented to over 130 people in her school and got to answer questions about Islam, her culture, and the Middle East. Normally not one to seek the spotlight, she enjoyed this opportunity to talk about her culture and clear up misconceptions about the Arab community.

Asala Mansour performs a poem during the talent show at the IRIS mid-year event in December.

Asala Mansour performs a poem during the talent show at the IRIS mid-year event in December.

One of her greatest challenges came at school days after the Paris attacks. She had overheard some derogatory comments in the hall that were later addressed in class. Asala shared about that experience saying, “[My teacher] asked me what was my religion, and for a second I hesitated to answer because I was afraid of the reactions, but then I remembered that this is what I’m here for and that I know I can say I’m a Muslim proudly. […] I feel like this is a good time for me as a Muslim to be in the United States.”

When she’s not engaged in meaningful dialogues, this young activist stays busy with choir, show choir, the school play, basketball and can be found volunteering regularly at her host family’s church.

“I am so proud of Asala for speaking up for what she believes in,” her local coordinator added. “She is the reason the YES program was created. Blairsburg, Iowa has about 200 people, so her presence alone was a noticeable addition. But her constant involvement in that small community is changing people perceptions about Islam and the Middle East for the better.”