Muslim Yalies who are miles from their siblings will now fill that role for high school students in New Haven.
The eight undergraduates in the “Siblings of Salam” program, which pairs Yale students with New Haven teenagers through a Muslim house of worship called the Masjid Al-Islam center, will be meeting their “little sibs” for the first time next weekend. The “big sibs” will act as a resource for their mentees through academic tutoring, weekly phone calls, and informal one-on-one meetings, program co-chair Shuaib Raza ’14 said.
Raza said the program is mainly centered around community service, and Yalies and their “little sibs” will undertake various community service projects together, starting with a soup kitchen.
“We are trying to be active role models,” he said.
Doing something together — like community service — will make it easier for the college and high school students to begin building a relationship, Raza said, adding that he hopes the “little sibs” will eventually feel comfortable reaching out to their Yale partners for help with anything from math homework to family challenges.
“Siblings of Salam” used to be run by the Muslim Students Association, and focused on coaching Muslim high school students on how to apply to college. The members decided to break away from the MSA this year to start a program that would provide personal as well as academic support, Co-chair Sana Jaffer ’13 said. She added that the old program also aimed to build personal relationships, but this proved impossible as the members met in groups, not one-on-one, and did not hold events frequently enough.
“The hope in the initial program was to develop lasting relationships, that ‘this teenager could email or call you about anything,’” she said. “But we didn’t get as much done when it was a part of MSA.”
Raza said he and Jaffer will make sure to tailor the “sibling” pairs so that they will benefit the high school students as much as possible, matching them according to gender.
“Siblings of Salam” is starting off with exclusively Muslim students in the hopes that this common ground will bridge the gap between Yalies and New Haven residents, he added, but hopes to include more people in the future.
“When this program has been sufficiently developed, we welcome the chance to expand the focus beyond a strictly Muslim community,” he said.
Raza added that most of the Yale participants are freshmen and sophomores, and therefore they will have a long time to build strong relationships with their “sibs.” As a freshman, Raza said he has been grateful for his freshman counselors and Peer Liaisons, and wants to replicate these Yale support systems in the New Haven community.
“Salam” means peace in Arabic, and is a typical Islamic greeting.