Julia Cleary of Wayland and Afnaan Qureshi of Weston received the inaugural Rising Youth Leadership Award presented by the Rotary Club of Weston and Wayland on Thursday October 26. State Representative Alice Peisch also presented citations from the House of Representatives to both students in recognition of their selection as rising youth leaders in their communities.
The Rotary Rising Youth Leadership Award, according to President Mark Messina, “is designed to support, inspire and recognize sophomores in our year-long effort focusing on leadership and community service in keeping with the Rotary International’s theme of “Making a Difference.” He added that “the caliber of nominations in our first month was impressive. We were all inspired by the activities and accomplishments of the nominees and we look forward to recognizing other Rising Youth Leaders in the months to come.”
Julia Cleary was nominated by Marybeth Sacramone, Head of Guidance at Wayland High School, on behalf of the faculty. Sacramone said “Julia works with the Family Promise, an organization that helps homeless and low-income families regain their housing and independence through community-based response. In addition to teaching families financial literacy and helping them find affordable housing, Family Promise provides temporary housing. Within Family Promise, Julia works with Kids Empowering Kids, an organization that allows high school volunteers to emphasize the importance of volunteering in and around our community. Julia serves as the Information Technology Officer and the Volunteer Coordinator for the organization. Julia said ‘I will work to build strong connections and will continue to emphasize the importance of volunteering in and around our community.’"
Afnaan Qureshi was nominated by people from many corners of the world he has touched. Suzan El-Rayess nominated Qureshi and travelled with him “on a humanitarian trip to Amman, Jordan where I saw how he tended to the plight of orphans and to the needs of displaced Syrian refugees.  As a youth leader, Afnaan stands out as someone who is inherently altruistic – caring and serving not only those around him, but particularly concerned about the most marginalized populations in society.”
Qureshi is actively involved as a youth group member at the Islamic Center of Boston Wayland Mosque (ICB Wayland) and frequently visits churches and synagogues to promote peace and unity.  Starting in November 2016, Afnaan worked with Helping Hand for Research and Development to provide aid to Syrian refugees.  With strong support from the Weston and ICB Wayland communities, Afnaan and his family were able to take 27 suitcases of medical supplies, hygiene products and baby supplies for the Syrian refugees living on the Jordanian border in January, 2017.
Shaheen Akhtar, Community leader of the Outreach Leadership Team at the Islamic Center worked with Qureshi on the Students Together Opposing Prejudice (STOP) program also nominated him, saying “I have seen his leadership in confronting prejudice. He takes the lead in standing up to peers, family, and even strangers.  He is a good role model for his peers.”