Youth in Focus: An Interview with Ola A.

Ola A. is a new volunteer in our Core Spring 2015 session. She lives in one of TYO’s target Nablus neighborhoods for the Core Child program. Ola graduated from An Najah National University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature. Ola_Aghbar_mosaic

What sparked your interest in TYO’s Youth Service Learning program? Have you volunteered elsewhere before?

Because I majored in English, I have many previous experiences volunteering with NGOs in Nablus that offer English language services; for example, I used to volunteer teach English language classes for adults. I heard about TYO’s Youth Service Learning program through my brother Mujahed who was a student in the International Intern program. He spoke so highly of his interaction with the teachers and volunteers at TYO that I decided to apply.

All of my previous volunteer experiences were with adults, so TYO is my first opportunity to work with young children. When I applied and attended the first training, it was clear to me that this program would be an exciting and challenging new experience. At TYO, I enjoy the opportunity to develop my work personality and build interpersonal skills that will help me in my future career.

What are your career plans, and how do you think volunteering in TYO’s Core Child program will help you?

Originally, I was planning to be an Arabic-English translator for a local company because it was the logical next step after majoring in English. However, after joining TYO’s volunteer program, I have developed a strong interest in working with children. Right now, I am interested in finding a part-time job in a local preschool to further practice and develop the skills I am learning at TYO and better understand early childhood education in Palestine. I have seen how difficult and unsupportive the preschool experience is for my nephews and nieces, and I want to be part of making that experience better. I am interested in recreating TYO’s model of education in Nablus's preschools, making them a place where children are building both their basic cognitive skills and their personalities.

What is the greatest challenge youth like you face in the current labor market?

In one phrase, lack of experience. The fact that most of us graduate with little to no work experience on our CVs is a huge factor in unemployment issues in Palestine. Even if we do find a job, we enter our first job with no training or previous experience in the labor market, which means a) we are not prepared for success in our first job, and b) we are offered very low salaries that barely cover the cost of transportation to and from work.

What do you think your generation can do to overcome that challenge?

Volunteering is key. Before we graduate and enter the labor market, we need to gain experience and use internship and volunteer opportunities as a way to begin networking. Also, I would advise first-year college students to talk to professors and role models in their field of interest to better understand the needs of the market and what additional skills they should build to be more employable in their field by the time they graduate. When I was in university, no one provided me with that information. I decided to study English Literature because I had heard that English would be necessary for any job, but I was not 100% sure that it was the right decision. I am glad that I did move forward with it, but looking back, I also wish I had taken more work opportunities to develop my personality and soft skills.

If there was one skill you wish you could improve, what would it be and why?

Definitely IT. Technology is a huge part of our lives now, and it is something you must be comfortable with in any job. I have tried developing my computer and technology skills with the help of my friend who majored in IT, but I want more opportunities to learn and practice.

- Interviewed by Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator