By Okon Ekpenyong and Ganel Leconte
My Project USA is probably the largest Muslim social services organization in Ohio that was formed in 2014 to protect and empower the New American youths living in Central Ohio and beyond. On Sunday, November 7, 2021, the organization celebrated its 7th anniversary and awarded six recipients the resilience award for their contribution and dedication to the mission.
Ohio State Senator Tina Maharath gave an emotional testimony on how crucial such an organization like “My project USA” means to the New American community. She often mentioned some of her mother’s biggest struggles and wished that such an organization existed back then to give voices to the young women in domestic violence situations.
When it comes to youth protection, some of the areas the organization focuses on are preventing human trafficking, stopping substance abuse, preventing suicides, and drugs & gangs, to name a few. They also promote youth empowerment by providing resources and connecting them with successful entrepreneurs, committed public servants, strong community leaders, and protectors of other youth.
The fall banquet and award ceremony 2021 had a packed house with individuals who worked in different career fields, which would explain why the youth empowerment initiative is vital to the organization’s success. It allows each child to interact with those who worked in the Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics industry.
A young man who goes by the name of Jamal Ibrahim accepted the most resilient youth award for turning his life around after two years of incarceration. The most resilient adult award went to Anna Borsick, a sex-trafficking survivor turned advocate, a business owner, and a grandmother.
Russell Harris took home the most resilient team member award, and he is the chair of the soccer board and treasurer of “My Project USA from 2019-2021.
Elizabeth Brown, President Pro Tempore, Columbus City Council, took the most committed Resilience Ally Elected official award. The founder, President and Executive Director of “My Project USA,” Zerqa Abid, told the crowds that Brown has always found a way to attend one of the organization’s events no matter the weather.
Columbus Division of Police Commander, Scott Hyland who commanded Zone three from 2017-2019, accepted the most committed Resilience Ally Law Enforcement Officer award. The most committed Resilience Ally and Nonprofit Partner award went to Michael Corey, the executive director at the human services Chamber of Franklin County.
Statements from the attendees:
Rena Shak (Public Defender and former candidate for municipal court)
“My Project USA is doing incredible and necessary work with the New American youth on the west side of Columbus. Zerqa and her team are empowering the next generations to care for each other and their communities. From soccer to the classroom, to service, to tangible life skills, My Project USA gives the youth they serve the stability and empowerment they need to succeed in life. All of this while also caring for an entire community at the same time”, Rena Shak said.
Judge Carl Aveni:
“Our New American Communities are the critical wellspring replenishing the American Experiment. But we need organizations like My Project USA to fill the widening gap between needs and opportunity.”
This remarkable evening reinforces just how critical My Project USA is in providing services, opportunities, and enrichment to our youth and neighbors on the Hilltop.
“You take a look at the Hilltop Tigers soccer program, and you see our youth embracing hard work, discipline, fellowship, and pride. It’s a program that offers them a joyous present and a hopeful future.”
“I am so impressed by the commitment of Zerqa Abid and the focus of the Board.”
One of those board members is Judge Sheryl Munson, who serves as social justice and civic engagement director. But long before Judge Sheryl Munson began her career on the Beach as the Franklin County Court of Common, Please General Division, she volunteered with “My project USA” serving as a mentor while working as a public defender for the Franklin County Public Defender office. She also participated in a few food-drives the organization held throughout the pandemic.
“They clearly understand the importance of the work they are doing at My Project USA for the future of our community,” Judge Aveni added.
The event took place at the prestigious historical center called “The Boat House.” All proceeds from the night event went to support various causes that “My Project USA” promotes.