Talking about my generation!

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Enjoying the Aces game with Yousra, who is from Algiers

Enjoying the Aces game with Yousra, who is from Algiers

 

Since I was in 6th grade, our family has hosted an Algerian high school student for two weeks through the Algerian Youth Leadership Program. It’s by far the highlight of every summer, and I’ve come to anticipate the event months in advance. I always meet the coolest people and learn more about their culture every year.

This year, we hosted a 16 year old girl named Yousra. She was from Algiers, the large industrial capital of Algeria. She spoke French, Arabic, English, and even Japanese- she loves anime and manga. In many cultures, including hers, dogs are seen as dirty animals and are definitely not kept as pets. After one day with our border collie, Lily, you would never have thought that Yousra had been afraid of dogs. She’d never seen a frisbee before, but by the end of the week she would throw it for the dog for hours at a time.

We took her to a baseball game, her first American sporting event. We asked her if she understood what was happening and she said, “Nope. I just clap whenever everyone claps!” She had so much fun, and it was an amazing feeling to introduce her to little facets of our culture, just like she introduced me to hers.

She brought henna and we gave ourselves matching “tattoos”, showed me the French and Arabic pop music that everyone in Algeria was listening to, and helped me with my French pronunciation. I miss her a lot, but social media allows us to keep in touch, just as I’ve kept in touch with all the previous students that have stayed with us!

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Konner and Tera Robison are teenage twins who enjoy giving back to their community

Konner and Tera Robison are teenage twins who enjoy giving back to their community

Konner and Tera Robison, are twins, but instead of competing with each other both have taken the opportunity to give back to their community in huge ways. 17 year-old Konner Robison was just named High School Volunteer of the Year for Nevada in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, the nation’s largest program honoring high school and middle school volunteers. A junior at Sage Ridge School in Reno, Konner created a fund that provides grants to local schools so they can buy calculators and other technology for kids who can’t afford them.

“One of the girls in my freshman class didn’t have a calculator that she needed and I was pretty struck that at our school there are students who can’t afford technology,” Konner said. So he decided to do something about it and set up the Scholastic Gateway Fund. He could have piggybacked on many other charities, but wanted something new. He told me the biggest challenge he faced was starting his program completely from scratch. “I had to start everything, I had to write the bylaws, make a logo, I had to go out and raise money, that was definitely a hard part.”

He met with potential donors and visited schools to find out what they needed. Konner has raised tens of thousands of dollars, and delivered his first grant in September to a public high school so that it could make advanced graphing calculators available to every student who needs one. Tera, his twin sister, has also been very busy helping others. She heads up a one-of-a-kind Big Brothers Big Sisters program at Sage Ridge School. It’s the only program where the high school students visit schools and eat lunch with their little brother or sister. “A lot of times with all these kids around they kind of get lost in the shuffle,” said Tera. “And it’s just really rewarding to know that there’s someone there looking out for them.” She told me that she gets as much as she gives with this experience. “When I was younger, I was shy and had low self-confidence. I wanted to be able to help someone who struggled with those same things,” Tera said. “I just wanted to make a difference.”

Together, these twins make a dream team of community service in Northern Nevada. I’ve known Tera and Konner for four years and I never realized as I walked past them in the hall every day how much they do for others. Being twins makes this whole experience even better for them. “It’s like having a built in best friend,” Tera says appreciatively. Konner hopes being recognized with a national award will bring more attention to his non-profit, and that will mean more calculators for kids who need them.