SHE WENT FOR HER DREAMS SPOTLIGHT: SANA AASER

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Sana Aaser

Education Director

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I am the Education Director of Noor Kids, a Harvard-supported educational program that seeks to build constructive identity among American-Muslim children. In this role, I manage the development of a monthly, subscription-based children’s activity book series that is read by over 25,000 children across 25 countries. Additionally, I conduct research, write content for parents such as articles and guides, and facilitate workshops with educators around the country. I received my MA in Education with a concentration in Equity and Social Justice from San Francisco State University, where I was recognized with the University’s highest honors for original research related to the impact of Islamophobia on 5-to-9-year-old Muslim children in North America. Due to the significance of this research, my team at Noor Kids subsequently raised $45,000 from over 550 contributors across the country to expand this study on a national level.

What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you? 

My vision for change is one of education and empowerment. I believe that learning and growth is inextricably tied to our identities, and how we show up in the world. The words we speak, the attitudes and beliefs we hold, the actions we take -- who we are is a summation of who we are taught to be. This is important to me because I am an educator who knows that education is about the whole child.

Tell us about the defining moment when you decided to make the leap towards your dreams.

Last October, my husband and I both made the decision to work full time on Noor Kids instead of pursuing other, potentially more lucrative, opportunities. We had a close family member pass away shortly before, and seeing her leave this world made us think about our own temporality. We committed ourselves to doing meaningful work and truly making a positive impact in the world.

What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?

In simple words, I believe our work teaches young children to be good human beings. At a time when children are hearing and seeing ugliness and hate in the media, we are promoting values necessary for better future generations. Within the Muslim community specifically, our work also supports children in developing confidence in themselves and integrating their Muslim and American identities.

At Project #SWFHD we are all a work in progress but we believe in walking our own talk. Tell us how you embody the mission your work serves?

At Noor Kids, our mission is to build constructive identity among American-Muslim children. This was a challenge for myself, not too long ago. I was born and raised in the United States to immigrant parents, one of whom joined the U.S. military when I was a young child. When 9/11 happened, my world was turned upside down as both my country and my faith were under attack simultaneously. Negotiating my multiple, and seemingly conflicted, identities was, and still is, a difficult task. Unfortunately, American-Muslim children growing up in the current socio-political climate have even greater challenges to face. This is why this work is so important to me personally.

A big part of going for your dreams is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Tell us about a challenge or fear that got in the way of going for your dreams? How did you handle it?

One of the fears that I have had, and sometimes still have, is wondering how to sustain this dream. We are solving a real problem and making social impact, but we are also running a business. It takes a lot of hard work and resources to make this dream come true each day. Reminding myself why I do what I do and hearing from our little fans is the fuel that keeps my engine running.

What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out? 

One piece of advice I would give to someone starting out is to surround yourself with supportive, but honest, people. It is definitely critical to have a strong support system that you can rely on for motivation, encouragement, and help. However, it is also wise to have trusted advisors who will provide real, constructive feedback, ultimately resulting in a better end result.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you and your business?

"It is a terrible thing to see and yet have no vision." - Helen Keller

 

Learn more about Sana and Noor Kids, here.

Follow on social media @noorkids