Mehak Hafeez is our Alum of the Month!
Mehak Hafeez is a brilliant young alumna who was part of the Mayoral Youth Commission and the campaign program. We sat down to chat with her about her experience with Mikva Challenge and here’s what she has to say:
Tell us about your Mikva Experience?
Being part of Mikva Challenge was a big opportunity for me! It gave me a chance to stand up for myself and develop my communications and leadership skills that I didn’t think I even possessed. I was able to express my opinions to both adults and my peers. I also LOVED the people at Mikva- they taught me to not just be an advocate for myself but to also hold myself accountable and trust people. A few summers back, I remember going to 1871, the tech hub, and I remember being amazed that I was lucky enough to be standing there talking and asking questions from some of the most cutting edge entrepreneurs of the country. These are the kind of rare and amazing opportunities Mikva Challenge provides youth in Chicago, especially youth like me who are undocumented and come from a low-income family.
What Programs Were You Involved in at Mikva?
I was part of the Mayoral Youth Commission since my early junior year in high school and I also did a lot campaign work with Mikva. My law teacher noticed that I was having difficulty in schools and was being bullied because of my accent and my background, so she recommended I join Mikva Challenge. At first I thought it was just another volunteer job but as soon as I started here I knew it a game changer for me. I started off with campaigning for an alderman and it was an amazing experience! Later, I worked as a summer fellow and then as part of the Mayoral Youth Commission. A big milestone for me was being part of the Chicago Youth Congress and the Employment Summit, both of which reached thousands of youth and addressed issues of employment and safety for young people. I never thought I would meet people like Gary McCarthy, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, or Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, but I did as part of the Youth Commission, and it was a life changing experience. Being part of campaigning and the youth commission showed me that my voice mattered and people were listening.
What are you doing now?
I’m a student at Harold Washington College right now and I’m working part-time at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. As part of my school sorority, I also serve as the Vice President of Fundraising for Phi Theta Kappa- Mu Pi Chapter.
My dream is to become clinical psychologists and help people in low-income communities with issues of depression and anxiety- something I’m very familiar with in my own household.
How has your experience as a Mikva Challenge youth informed where you are today?
I would honestly say that if it wasn’t for Mikva I don’t think I would ever be able to think outside the box. I always thought that everyone was against me, but at Mikva I learned that there are many perspectives to a situation and that I’m not alone in my troubles. Mikva taught me that being a woman from another culture doesn’t have to define me, rather it’s my thoughts, my work and my approach to life that makes me who I am. You know how a rocket needs a spark and fuel to shoot up? Mikva was that spark for me.