Why I Give Back: Serving My Family and Community through Education

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Abdul-Karim Abdullah

By Abdul-Karim Abdullah

For me, this season represents a time to focus on my community and reflect on what I have experienced throughout the year. This is a time to be thankful for what I have and pay it forward by giving back. I believe that service builds character, but more importantly, it creates a strong foundation for the future of our communities. While we can often get so caught up with our daily routines, it is important to make time for our communities, especially here in Chicago.

I grew up, and still live, in Chicago’s diverse Rogers Park neighborhood. Throughout my life, both of my parents have always encouraged me to do my best and to give back. My father taught me to maximize my potential to shape my future, and my mother has worked with community organizations since I was seven-years-old. This positive influence on my life, along with my Muslim faith, have helped me to get to where I am today.

I started my junior year at a public high school, but traditional schools always felt too structured for me, as I never thrived within large class sizes, nor did I want to be subjected to the peer pressure that many high school students experience. After a three-month break weighing my options and deciding what to do, I soon transferred to a virtual charter school, but the pace there was still overwhelming to me. My parents also felt that a traditional setting was not the right one for me to succeed in – in fact, it was my father who first told me about Ombudsman. Once I enrolled at Ombudsman, I was able to create my own schedule. I attend classes here, then commute to a city college, where I am also taking courses. The class sizes and scheduling flexibility that Ombudsman offers, benefits me tremendously and allows me to maintain my commitments to both my education and community.

Now a senior at Ombudsman, I also work and volunteer at the Medinah Society Community Resource Center, which focuses on the needs of adults and children in the Rogers Park community. My role there is to tutor children and provide assistance to those in need, which helps me to be a contributing force of good within my community. I have to give credit to my mom, for influencing me to be an active member of my community. I have been involved in community service since the age of seven and have logged more than 100 hours of community work this year. I have developed a trust within my community and this is very important to me.

Besides class size and schedule flexibility, Ombudsman offers me courses that I want to take, such as Pre-Calculus. I attribute much of the credit for my 4.2 grade point average to the Ombudsman staff. I always learn something new and valuable from Mr. Bishop, who teaches math and science, which are my two favorite subjects. My counselor, Ms. Kyle, makes setting up my class schedule easy, by guiding me through the process and regularly checking-in with me. The nurturing environment at Ombudsman helps me to realize that I can thrive.

I am grateful for the entire Ombudsman faculty, because they have all helped me make it this far. I’m equally thankful for my parents and the values they’ve instilled in me. My experiences at Ombudsman are similar to those that I receive from my Muslim faith, which have shaped my entire being. The teachings of my faith are based on principles and also connect me to my community. People feel accepted within my faith community and I can honestly say the same is true for students within the Ombudsman community.

As I look ahead to graduating next year, I want to attend DePaul University, or the University of Chicago, and possibly pursue a career in math and science. I would love to be a neurologist, but I also have interest in computer science. The advice I share with those looking for high school options after being out of school, is that Ombudsman provides the resources to manage both school and work and will help you to pursue a college education. The flexibility helps with time management and allows you to focus on more than one thing, such as helping the community, which is very important to me. Without Ombudsman, I would not be able to lead a balanced life of school, work and community service, and for that, I am grateful.

Abdul-Karim Abdullah is a student at Ombudsman Chicago Northwest.

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