Hanan Ibrahim is a 12th grader at Taconic Hills High School and lives in Hillsdale, NY. Through her active involvement in the school's Youth Ambassador network and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter, she was chosen to travel to Washington D.C. to represent Columbia County at Mentor Foundation USA’s “Shatter the Myths” rally held on January 24th at the House of Sweden as part of the National Alcohol and Drug Facts Week. Hanan was especially excited to be chosen for the trip to D.C. so that she could learn about more ways to combat substance abuse at her school.
Hanan originally got involved in drug prevention advocacy after an experience in middle school where she witnessed high school SADD students all dressed in black holding paper gravestones with names on them and how they died from substance abuse. She later learned this event was put on by SADD and she wanted to get involved. Mentor Foundation USA partners with SADD in its peer-to-peer drug prevention programs.
"Mentor Foundation USA and SADD are important because they enable students to empower others by relaying the information we learn."
Hanan lives with her mom Margaret, her dad Mohammed and an older sister. Most notably however, her dad is one of nine children, most of whom are married, leading her to have 21 cousins! Hanan is proud of her Palestinian descent, which is not common in her area. Her dad was raised in Jordan, but she considers herself Palestinian. She said it affects her world view because of the response she has gotten for who she is.
"I have faced discrimination from people who surprised me. I learned how quick is was for people to stereotype me and forget who I was as a person."
Hanan is an avid photographer as she said it allows her to capture moments that she can remember forever. However, she said, “you have to find balance between capturing and living in the moment.” She took powerful photos on the trip to D.C. that was funded, in part, by the Columbia County Healthcare Consortium.
She also pays a great deal of attention to the refugee crisis. This has led her to look at marketing and communications or international business as possible career fields. She is presently looking at American University and University of Pennsylvania amongst other schools for next year.
Hanan feels one of the best and worst thing about being a teen is making choices.
"The best thing is we are not limited and our future is open to what we choose, but it is challenging choosing what to do for the rest of my life without actually experiencing life."
She hopes to follow in the footsteps of her 22-year-old sister Sarah, who is a business owner and has overcome great obstacles.
When asked about the biggest challenges facing teens today, Hanan responded “Communication. We are constantly on our phones and social media and we find it hard to communicate to one another in person.”
She also feels that teens are under a great deal of stress, either caused by school or what is happening at home, and it can be a huge trigger for substance abuse. Parents and other influential parents should help by “being involved and allowing teens to feel that it’s okay to talk to them,” she said.
Lastly, Hanan believes that she is “Living the Example” by “making choices that are beneficial to myself and my future,” she said. “I set an example for my peers, hopefully encouraging others to choose to live the example as well.”
Hanan, we think you are doing just that! Thank you for Living the Example in all aspects of your life!