NEWARK, NJ — “Have any of you guys heard of Whippany? Yeah? That’s surprising.”
It was with a comedic sense of timing that Sabrina Ahmed, the daughter of two immigrants, put forth her tongue-in-cheek question to her peers at Rutgers University-Newark during the school’s annual Welcome Week greeting for first-year students.
Ahmed, the Rutgers University-Newark’s 2018-2019 Student Government Association president, then pointed out that the irony of her experience growing up in a predominantly white, suburban New Jersey town hasn’t been lost on her.
“Yes me – a covered Muslim woman – got elected by a majority of students here to serve as your student body president,” she said.
And as an auditorium of her peers erupted in applause, Ahmed just smiled.
“Stepping into Rutgers was a whole new experience,” Ahmed recalled earlier this week, conjuring up images of her first day at school, freshly implanted from a Morris County suburb to one of the most diverse cities in America.
“Our campus leaders have come from so many different backgrounds and have had such unique experiences. It’s these experiences that strengthen the bond of community that exists at Rutgers,” Ahmed said.
“I’ve been able to befriend people that look like me and who share the same interests, but more importantly, I’ve been able to step out and have amazing experiences with people who are so different from me,” Ahmed added.
The exposure to the diverse tapestry of culture that exists in Newark has helped Ahmed to sharpen her empathy skills and pushed her further towards one of her life goals… being a “person who provides positive energy and positive change wherever you walk.”
Part of that wisdom includes realizing that we aren’t all the same… and that’s just fine, she said.
“Allow yourself to feel for everyone, not just people like you, and most importantly, turn that empathy into action,” she urged her peers. “Stand up and stand with those that need you. Be an ally. And most importantly, be a friend.”
Watch a video of her inspiring speech below via Rutgers-Newark.
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Photo: YouTube / RutgersNewark