17-year-old Agha Haider has always had a passion for helping others. From the time he was ten years old, he’s spent time volunteering for various causes and organizations in his community.
Throughout his middle school years, Agha became more aware of society’s issues and the importance of using his privilege to address them. “As I have encountered examples of social inequity in my community, I have acted to resolve them rather than standing idly by,” he said. “I never stand by waiting for someone else to do the work. I see what must be done and am motivated to do it myself.”
“I never stand by waiting for someone else to do the work. I see what must be done and am motivated to do it myself.”
In his eighth-grade English class, he and his classmates were tasked to research and create a presentation on an issue they wanted to address. Because of his interest in reading, he decided to present on illiteracy among children in poverty. After reading up on how prevalent this issue is across the United States, he was determined to take action and instill positive change within his community.
Agha is the Founder of The Literacy Initiative & Education Collaborative, an organization that creates programs and opportunities for low-income students. Before this, he founded the St. Louis branch of the Little St. Nick Foundation, where he distributed thousands of toys and gift bags to kids in the emergency room. He seeks to address inequities within the education system and build a new generation of leaders in everything he does.
As an exceptional Gen Z’er using his voice for good, Agha was honored for his work in Education as part of the ConversationaLIST. “Helping others through community service has not only made me a better leader in my community but has allowed me to become a more empathetic person,” he said. “Hearing stories and meeting students from a wide range of backgrounds has provided me with an opportunity to become a more open-minded person and understand the value of perspective.”
“Hearing stories and meeting students from a wide range of backgrounds has provided me with an opportunity to become a more open-minded person and understand the value of perspective.”
He recalls an experience he had with a student while volunteering at Airport Elementary School. “His dream was to become a dancer, and his consistent, positive energy radiated over everyone he encountered, inspiring all,” he recalled. “He inspired me to always focus on the best things in life because no matter what adversities he faced, this student continuously kept a smile on his face and uplifted every person with whom he interacted. “
Agha wants to remind his fellow Gen Z’ers that they can use their voice for good in several different ways. He suggests figuring out what issues you're passionate about fighting and starting conversations with family and friends about it. “Whether it's being a leader on your soccer team or volunteering with a local non-profit organization, you're making an impact either way,” he said.
As Agha wraps up his senior year of high, he’s working to provide a $20,000 scholarship fund for disadvantaged youth interested in pursuing a college education debt-free. “The funds for this scholarship have been raised over a multitude of years,” he said. “Having the opportunity to provide another student, just like me, with an opportunity to find their dreams and continue pursuing their passions in college is incredibly important to me.”
Agha believes that it is up to Gen Z to right the wrongs of past generations and build a brighter future. He said that creating conversation and awareness around the issues they face is an essential first step. He’s grateful to The Conversationalist for creating a space that promotes this mindset, especially as the pandemic continues to keep people isolated at home. “Unification is crucial at a time where much of our country is divided, and that's what The Conversationalist strives to do,” he said.
“Unification is crucial at a time where much of our country is divided."
In a unified world, Agha says everyone is able to respect each other's opinions, regardless of whether they agree or disagree. However, he acknowledges that we have a long way to go before accomplishing this. Agha believes that having conversations with other Gen Z'ers surrounding various topics and issues and becoming more open-minded is the first step to building a more unified world. He also tries to emphasize kindness and positivity in his life. “On a daily basis, we are inundated with negative news stories, pressure to succeed in schools, and much more,” he explained. “All of this can be extremely difficult, especially for teenagers whose brains are still developing. Though it may seem simple, being kind and positive can go a long way.”
To break open his echo chamber, Agha focuses on hearing other peoples’ perspectives. “Though it can be difficult, it's important to respect other people's opinions and understand where they are coming from, rather than trying to prove them wrong as soon as they begin talking,” he said.