A Reflection on the MYNA Student Leadership Summit 2014
by Haroon Rasheed
The 2014 MYNA Summer Leadership Summit (SLS) was not your typical leadership summit. Yes, it was a gathering of youth leaders for a week of lengthy meetings and debates on policy, plans, and ideas, but the stifling formal environment that generally permeates summits was curiously absent. Instead of straight-backed mouthpieces dressed in crisp, cut suits, I found slippers, jeans, and crumpled t-shirts adorning insightful and (sometimes annoyingly) intelligent friends. Each person was bursting with great proposals and suggestions, and we often had to race to keep up with each other’s thoughts.
This is not to say that we were not productive. We successfully completed most of the tasks on the agenda and even went as far as to add, and finish, a couple more. We initially tried to have group discussions with all 25 participants in attendance, but we quickly found this method to be inefficient just due to the number of fantastic ideas and opinions being shared. However, with a group of youth such as this, finding solutions is our forte. Soon enough, we transferred to a smaller group method of discussion, led by the youth, with delegated tasks to 4 or 5 people. The amount of work that finally got done is astonishing.
Also, can someone please explain the concept of sleep? Because the guys of SLS definitely did not understand nor need it for our one week episode. Philosophical discussions, scary stories, and random shouts of “GOAT!” (don’t ask) lasted from taraweeh to fajr and sometimes even beyond, leaving us, at most, 5 hours of sleep a night. And while we may have been exhausted and groggy the next morning, the experiences, memories and friendships we built during the early morning hours were all the more worth it.
But what truly makes SLS is not the day or night time activities, but the people. Rarely do I find such outspoken, intelligent, and balanced leaders that I can connect with on an intellectual and emotional level. Not only were they all astonishingly smart and astute, they had the unique ability to make work fun. I enjoyed and loved sitting down with all these amazing and overly-opinionated peers and discussing the issues of themes for hours and hours, purely because the environment was so…electrifying and exciting.
Ideas that could revolutionize MYNA were concocted in pairs or triplets late at night, tired-yet-excited faces illuminated by the flickering glow of their computer screen. Debates were competitions, wars of minds, to see who could come up with the best solution, with each side being equally intelligent, stubborn, and skilled. The thick atmosphere of revolutionary change was palatable and energized us into the wee hours of the morning.
So, to all the brothers, sisters, Muslims, people, life-forms, and masses of cells that read this, SLS is truly a unique experience. Each year, MYNA leaders from the Regional Executive Committees, national subcommittees, and Executive Committee gather for this experience. Every MYNA youth has the potential to make it to a leadership role, and when you do, I would strongly, strongly, suggest you go to the Summer Leadership Summit of MYNA.
I thank all the participants of SLS, YPSD staff and the ISNA staff in general for hosting us. All of you, as a sum total, have given me a beautiful, fun, outrageous, absurd, life-changing experience, and memory of one week during my 2014 summer that I will not soon forget.
Let us raise our glasses of rooh afza to the next SLS. See you there!
Haroon Rasheed is the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) California Camp Vice Chair.