Watfae Zayed is a master’s student at DePaul University pursing a nursing degree. As an undergraduate, she was president of the Student Government Association. She demonstrated her commitment to service as a Community Service Scholar, who delivered 30 hours of service per quarter and completed a Community Service minor. Watfae also exercised her leadership skills as a board member of United Muslims Moving Ahead, which hosts over 100 members, and is a service-oriented Islamic student organization. She accomplished all of this while maintaining a Dean’s List GPA and working as a Chicago Quarter Mentor, where she supported first-year students.
Growing up a Muslim American, I found myself hiding my identity, trying to assimilate to the society around me: making my name easier to say, not bringing traditional foods for lunch, etc. As I grew older, I wondered why I was so scared to be who I am. I realized that the root cause of Islamophobia was ignorance. Muslim history is not taught in schools, besides when 9/11 is mentioned. When I became more involved in my mosque, we were taught that no matter how many infographics, demonstrations, or classes we have, nothing proves to be more educational than the way we carry ourselves: our character. We break ignorance by being the best version of ourselves, without the need for additional sources or evidence. With this in mind, we were able to start a leadership program at our mosque that focused on this idea. We began doing more philanthropic work, providing mental health services, community health fairs, and community dinners. After all these years, we found that this is the best way to break ignorance and address Islamophobia, hopefully creating a future where Muslim youth no longer have to be ashamed of their identities.