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Leveling Up On Leadership

By Gauri Shyamnath

“We rise by lifting others.” - Robert Ingersoll

Although collective uncertainties and fears have not yet been lifted, these six New Hyde Park seniors rose to the occasion to lift others. The dreary outlook led on by COVID-19 and the cancellation of their summer agendas inspired these fantastic females to make plans of their own to make the difference.

A burst of entrepreneurialism demonstrated by YLPHM, LILAC, Femme Forces, and ASALI filled the NHP community’s Instagram pages and Snapchat stories. The designers behind these virtuous operations knew that virtuality had to counter traditionality in this unprecedented situation.

YLPHM (Youth Leaders in Public Health and Medicine) is a medically prospective, student-run organization originally assembled by two students from Hicksville High School. NHP students Gayathri Suresh and Gauri Shyamnath came across YLPHM, to no surprise, on Instagram. The duo proceeded to establish a chapter in New Hyde Park before running and being appointed to the executive board.

“With YLPHM, I wanted to help students connect with people in the medical field, get unique volunteering opportunities, and create community projects. Even though the pandemic changed YLPHM’s events, we were still able to help youth in our area and all over the world make a difference,” said Suresh.

The New Hyde Park chapter’s first collaborative effort with the NYC chapter was reaching out to potential members through TikTok before raising money for the Beirut tragedy, dubbed “Lift Up Lebanon,” through a socially distanced bake sale in Fort Totten.

Source by Olivia Wong

Many organizations were created over the pandemic geared towards enacting social change.

In the same realm, LILAC (Long Island Laboring Against COVID-19) was created. Although this student-run organization was originally assembled outside of New Hyde Park, senior Sarah Razzaq bloomed as the Co-Director of LILAC’s Social Media Committee and Editing Manager of Film Production. In her position, Razzaq has had to increase connectivity, which was extremely important in an organization with very little prior connection.

“At first it was hard because I was the only member from New Hyde Park while most of the members were from the Syosset and Plainview area. But after being added to the group chats through GroupMe, I didn’t feel like I was far from them at all because all the communication happened there,” said Razzaq.

Razzaq helped donate over 10,000 masks and six works of art to the Freeport School District and was even interviewed for a COVID-19 relief documentary.

Voter suppression, although not contagious, is very much prevalent, and the Asian Student Association of Long Island (ASALI) is here to help resolve that. Led by two college students from NYU and UPenn, ASALI is an organization geared toward increasing Asian American voter turnout for elections. Seniors Jada Seto and Olivia Wong are current members in this organization.

“I think especially this year after seeing the ignorance that people consistently maintain after coronavirus spread throughout America, it made me just want to start speaking out,” said Seto.

...virtuality had to counter traditionality in this unprecedented situation...

“To continue on this path in the future, I plan on joining clubs in college that are also passionate about social justice issues,” said Wong.

But their fight hasn’t stopped with just this election. Teens around Long Island remain unflagging in their efforts to spread the word throughout the community, activism on social media, and of course the enlightenment of their culture.

In the beginnings of quarantine, seniors Rafia Ahmed and Gauri Shyamnath founded Femme Forces: a group for women, catalyzed by women. Through navigating fiscal sponsorships and barriers brought on by COVID-19, these young women wanted to make sure that reproductive health for girls and women in underprivileged areas remained significant and not diminished.

“In different international countries, they don’t have that luxury of being able to fight for their own rights, so giving every bit of aid even if it’s from outside is helpful,” said Ahmed.

They are on the way to concluding their first project in which a three-month supply of sanitary products will be donated to young women in Kenya.


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