Kennedy with a plate of food in front of her.

Kennedy, Arabic

Kennedy is an alumna of the 2020 NSLI-Y Arabic Program from Atlanta, Georgia. She attended Princeton University where she majored in medical anthropology.

As a high schooler interested in migration studies and human rights, Kennedy was drawn to volunteering with refugees and asylum seekers in nearby Clarkston, Georgia. Clarkston is often considered the “Ellis Island of the South”, due to its ethnic diversity and high number of resettled refugees. During her time as a volunteer tutor, she noticed a lack of certain health care and medical supplies in the area. Kennedy decided to remedy this and began distributing donations of needed supplies. This is what ultimately became her nonprofit, Aid the Journey. Kennedy still remains involved today. Her nonprofit began when she started buying and distributing DollarStore bandages after tutoring sessions. She then grew to assess refugees’ needs and provide numerous products, including menstrual hygiene kits and supplies for new moms. She notes proudly that “With unwavering support from the woman who taught me the meaning of service and altruism, my Mom, dedicated volunteers, and collaboration with national and community partners, Aid the Journey now positively impacts refugee resettlement efforts in Georgia and New Jersey.” Starting a nonprofit as a high schooler may seem like a daunting task, but Kennedy has advice for others looking to start similar projects and create positive change in their communities, “I would recommend that students connect with nearby nonprofit organizations, even if it is not directly related to their community service effort interests, to learn about the ‘best practices’ of establishing a nonprofit in a way that resonates with the needs of their local community! I would​ also encourage students to lean on their friends, family members, and peers when starting service projects; my nonprofit has grown tremendously from the support of my village.”​

Another impact of her volunteer experience in Clarkston was that Kennedy noticed many of the students and families spoke varying dialects of Arabic. Kennedy began to independently study Modern Standard Arabic in order to connect with refugees and explain health-related terminology. When she saw her students’ joy each time she would use her imperfect Arabic to try to explain a concept, Kennedy became motivated to continue her Arabic studies and build better relationships with community members. Her NSLI-Y experience, while virtual, was a pivotal moment for Kennedy. As an aspiring doctor with interests amalgamating at the intersections of global health, human rights, and advocacy, NSLI-Y solidified her goal to commence a lifelong language learning journey to build a foundation for communicating with Arabic-speaking refugee patients. Although she has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, Kennedy notes that “the type of physician I seek to become has increasingly been rooted in passions for health equity. An appreciation for world languages and cultures is intrinsically​ linked to my goal of becoming a perceptive, knowledgeable, and empathetic physician because of the human​ connection permitted by an understanding of diverse ways of inhabiting the world.” This perspective is clearly shown in Kennedy’s accomplishments and engagements after finishing her NSLI-Y program and matriculating at Princeton University. She has taken Arabic at Princeton while juggling a major in Medical Anthropology with minors in Global Health and French. While finding additional time to study Arabic formally has been difficult, she has found ways to continue engaging with the language through continuing to interact with Arabic-speaking refugees during service work with her nonprofit, Aid the Journey, Inc., which continues to partner with refugee communities to supply medical resources and education surrounding menstruation for women.​