Securing the Common Good, Not for One but for All
Ayah Mouhktar ‘18 shares some advice for incoming students and reflects in this week’s blog on what it means to serve the San Francisco community and work with youth who are raised in similar conditions as herself. Ayah is an alumnus of the McCarthy Center’s USF in DC program and worked as a Communications Assistant at the McCarthy Center during her time as a Media Studies major at USF.
The University of San Francisco taught me a plethora of things academically, ranging from Modern African HIstory, Physics 101 and how important it is to look at the syllabus before your class starts for the semester so you can pre-plan to buy your textbooks online for a lot cheaper than in the student store. The McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good taught me everything else.
I grew up not thinking much of school, I didn’t like how early one had to wake up, the cramming of information, the mundane schedule and the khaki uniforms were never my thing. I wanted to be outside, finding new challenges to solve and new issues to talk about, and that hunger I had to be a changemaker was fulfilled when I learned about the McCarthy Center at USF.
After my experience with the McCarthy Center, being mentored by the staff of talented and diverse individuals and engaging conversations about real life and in real time issues that impacted San Francisco residents, USF students and everyone in between. I took those skills, the passion and the drive that embodies all of the McCarthy Center’s work and I went out into the real world (scary!) as an adult (scarier!) with responsibilities and rent (scariest!) and I went to work with the YMCA of San Francisco.
I began as a literacy specialist, working with teachers at John Muir Elementary School and leading reading sessions with small groups of our 2nd and 3rd graders. I then became the Academic Coordinator who oversaw the after school program’s academic components and working with our elementary school teachers in assisting our higher needs youth with reading interventions and specialized tutoring. Then, I began and still am the Site Coordinator for John Muir Community School Beacon through the Buchanan YMCA. I oversee and run a number of programs like PowerScholars Academy, Student Leadership, STEAM classes and more for our after school and school day programs.
After the COVID-19 era of our lives began, schools closed, our classes closed, our programs closed and it felt like life had closed temporarily. However, at the YMCA we never close. About two weeks after the initial call to close the city, we began to run an emergency childcare site for essential workers and frontline staff. It was an honor to be called in to support families who are in need of childcare during these unfortunate times. We prepared for our new normal… interacting with youth with masks on (“Ms. Ayah do you have a mustache under there?”), sanitizing surfaces every hour, reminding youth to stay distant…the new normal. It has been months and our childcare is still open and running and will remain until further notice. Though COVID-19 changed the way we care and educate our children, there is absolutely nowhere else I’d rather be now.
So, what does this all mean? Why should one care why or how I got here? I wholeheartedly believe that without the McCarthy Center, without the mentors I’ve had in my life and without my mother, I would not be who I am today and where I am today (at the moment cleaning glitter off my laptop after an accident during our art and crafts hour).
I do what I do because I must ensure that EVERYONE — I mean every individual literally is good. It’s a similar mentality from when you ask a friend, “Hey are you good?” but now you maximize your scale of impact and change your frame of mind to think and now ask, “Hey are we all good?” It is crucial that we think of others, at this time, at all times and at any time for the betterment of ourselves and for our community.
Read earlier posts by Ayah on the McCarthy Center blog.