My Biggest Takeaways from the SFI Experience

March 6, 2020

Neusha Kharrati:  Del Mar; 17

I joined SFI because I wanted to learn more about the San Diego community and the community service opportunities available for youth like me. I also wanted experience working in a team. However, SFI allowed me to do so much more than I originally wanted or expected to do.

Working in my Thread was an eye-opening experience, not just regarding the physical work we were doing but also concerning how we functioned as a team. This experience was different from school projects or other collaborative efforts because everyone sitting around the table was equally invested and determined to create an impact. That is what I love about SFI: everyone who participates has a passion for change, which combined with the resources SFI provides, enables young leaders to take charge of their communities. It also provides a platform for us to voice our opinions and bring these visions to life.

During our meetings, our team had vivid brainstorming sessions during which many creative ideas were introduced. The different backgrounds of each member made for a vast melting pot of diverse opinions, all of which contributed to making our project unique. From this process,I learned how to integrate different views into a final product. I became accustomed to contemplating every proposal as if it were my own to ensure that every voice was heard, and doing so significantly improved my teamwork capabilities.

We finally decided to create a video that documented the lives of undocumented members of our community (“Documenting the Undocumented”). The process of creating this video was educational because it taught me how to conduct an interview with someone I had never met before. Opening a natural dialogue with someone who is undocumented forced me to overcome boundaries I had set in my own mind. I ended up interviewing an Iranian man, which was a pleasant coincidence since I am also Iranian. Learning about the legal, economic, and social challenges that he has had to face deepened my understanding of what life is like for undocumented individuals. His story also contributed to creating a fuller picture of undocumented life for our documentary, which focused on a diverse range of undocumented immigrants, from Hispanics to Middle Easterners.

The highlight of my SFI experience was the Summit Event. This event was the culmination of a summer of work for all groups present. Seeing all projects on display was truly sensational experience. I gained much respect for everyone in the room after viewing the incredible things they had accomplished this summer and was proud to be able to exhibit my own hard work as well.

While watching the presentations on stage, I truly felt connected to the SFI community. The heartfelt stories of young participants in the program instilled a sense of awe within me; the Summit Event was a safe space in which all SFI participants could proudly display their best and most unique qualities and work. The environment was unlike any I had experienced before.

As you can see, I have learned a lot about myself and the general community through SFI. However, I also learned a great deal about working in a group. In closing, I want to share the biggest takeaways from my SFI experience:

1.   When brainstorming, impose limiting factors that force you to think outside the box. This was how we came up with our most creative ideas!

2.   Establish an open dialogue with your teammates. A more open environment encourages more innovative ideas!

3.   Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers -- sometimes they are the ones you will learn the most from.

4.   When searching for a solution, make sure your group is diverse. This ensures that you acknowledged ideas from multiple perspectives!

5.   Never be afraid to voice your opinion; every opinion is valuable.

6.   Go to all the SFI sponsored workshops! The Human Centered Design Workshop honed my innovative capabilities better than I ever imagined.

7. You don’t need a lot of money to create a project that is meaningful.

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