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Large group of REACH youth and volunteers in a park

MEET THE
TEAM

REACH engages a solid pool of talented board members, staff, adult volunteers, and partner institutions in carrying out our mission. Our Peer Mentor Advisory Corps helps guide our vision through practical first-hand knowledge of their communities' needs and assets. This growing community has become a diverse social network of support for all REACH participants. 

REACH BOARD.

REACH Founder and Board President Shana Wills

Shana Wills

Executive Director / Board President / Founder

Shana has more than 25 years’ experience researching and addressing systemic policies that impact displacement across the globe. She first started employing experiential learning theory while implementing projects based on the Danish Folk School pedagogy in war-torn Africa. She has conducted field research and established projects affecting vulnerable populations, including child soldiers, displaced children, landmine victims, warehoused refugees, and marginalized communities in Angola, Colombia, Eritrea, Haiti, Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa, & Tanzania.  READ MORE >

Founder / Board President

Shana Wills

Shana has more than 25 years’ experience researching and addressing systemic policies that impact displacement across the globe. She first started studying experiential learning theory while implementing projects based on the Danish Folk School pedagogy in war-torn Africa. She has conducted field research and established projects affecting vulnerable populations, including child soldiers, displaced children, landmine victims, warehoused refugees, and marginalized communities in Angola, Colombia, Eritrea, Haiti, Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa, & Tanzania.  Shana has worked with refugee communities in Chicago since 1991. As director of Heartland Alliance’s refugee & immigrant community services and later as director of Chicago Public School’s international newcomer center, she focused on improving systems and empowering refugee youth and families in ways that could benefit all. Recognizing a systemic disconnect between American public school culture and refugee families, and a growing need to engage newcomer adolescents in a meaningful way, Shana launched REACH. Shana is also a faculty member at DePaul University and an independent consultant for grassroots refugee organizations. As an avid hiker, cyclist, paddler, and lifelong learner, Shana aspires to share her love for the human and non-human elements of the life-world with REACH participants.

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Kristen Huffman-Gottschling

Board Vice President

Kristen has been a licensed social worker for 20+ years. She is also a Professor at UIC's Jane Addams College of Social Work, specializing in the integration of refugee youth ... READ MORE >

Kristen Huffman-Gottschling

Board Vice President

Kristen has been a licensed social worker for 20+ years. She is also a Professor at UIC's Jane Addams College of Social Work, specializing in the integration of refugee youth in high schools. Kristen is the former Director of Horizons Clinic-World Relief-Chicago, which provided mental health services to refugee families in Albany Park. She currently serves as the Executive Director of PACTT Learning Center.

REACH Board Secretary Steve Key

Steve Key

Board

Secretary

Steve is an active REACH volunteer whose professional background is in the arts. He formerly served as the artistic director of Shattered Globe  Theatre and he is presently an ensemble member of American Blues Theatre ... READ MORE >

Steve Key

Board Secretary

Steve is an active REACH volunteer whose professional background is in the arts. He formerly served as the artistic director of Shattered Globe Theatre and he is presently an ensemble member of American Blues Theatre. As an actor, Steve recently performed in Tracy Lett’s BUG at Steppenwolf Theatre, and in Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning SWEAT, both on Broadway and on its National Tour. Steve is an outdoor adventure enthusiast who has had a lifelong commitment to service.

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Stephanie Thomas

Board

Treasurer

Stephanie is a mom who, with Shana, founded and coordinated a Refugee Welcome Project at Whittier Elementary School in Oak Park, raising ... READ MORE >

Stephanie Thomas

Board Treasurer

Stephanie is a mom who, with Shana, founded and coordinated a Refugee Welcome Project at Whittier Elementary School in Oak Park, raising money and awareness among the school community to address issues facing new refugee families in Chicago. She and her son first joined REACH as volunteers. She is now thrilled to be serving as a board member.

REACH Board Member Rasha Al Hasnawi

Rasha Al

Hasnawi

Board

Member

Rasha is a REACH parent who also volunteers at many adventure camp sessions and overnight trips. She and her family arrived as refugees from Iraq ... READ MORE >

Rasha Al Hasnawi

Board Member

Rasha is a REACH parent who also volunteers at many adventure camp sessions and overnight trips. She and her family arrived as refugees from Iraq in 2015. Rasha has a background in early childhood education and currently works full-time in her field. She is fondly referred to as "REACH den mom" by many youth participants.

REACH Board Member Jason Brashares

Jason

Brashares

Board

Member

Jason is an Art Director and Eco-Retreat Leader who has assisted REACH with branding, marketing, and volunteering since 2016. He has a wide range of outdoors guiding ... READ MORE >

Jason Brashares

Board Member

Jason is an Art Director and Eco-Retreat Leader who has assisted REACH with branding, marketing, and volunteering since 2016. He has a wide range of outdoors guiding experience from camping and backpacking trips in the US to large international retreat groups. Jason looks forward to doing all he can to advance the REACH mission.

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Samar Mesleh

Board

Member

Sama's bio coming soon ... READ MORE >

Samar Mesleh

Board Member

Samar's bio coming soon.

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Sajjad Lafta

Board

Member

Sajjad is a former REACH Peer Mentor who arrived as a refugee from Iraq in 2013 when he was 11 years old.  He is currently enrolled in college and studying to be a nurse. As a ... READ MORE >

Sajjad Lafta

Board Member

Sajjad is a former REACH Peer Mentor who arrived as a refugee from Iraq in 2013 when he was 11 years old.  He is currently enrolled in college and studying to be a nurse. As a proud graduate of REACH programs, Sajjad understands the positive impact they can have on young people and he looks forward to furthering REACH's vision and scope. 

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You!

Board

Member

Would you like to join the REACH Board?

 

READ MORE >

Are You Interested in Joining the REACH Board?

We'd love to talk! Click below to get started.

In Memory of Jim Berg

Our Friend and REACH Board Member

The world lost a kind adventurer in February 2024, REACH board member Jim Berg. Everyone here at REACH will miss our friend and colleague more than words can express. 

Jim has been an integral part of our team and his impact on the lives of REACH youth will be felt for many years to come.

REACH BOARD.

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Shana Wills

Founder / Board President

Shana has more than 25 years’ experience researching and addressing systemic policies that impact displacement across the globe. She first started studying experiential learning theory while implementing projects based on the Danish Folk School pedagogy in war-torn Africa. She has conducted field research and established projects affecting vulnerable populations, including child soldiers, displaced children, landmine victims, warehoused refugees, and marginalized communities in Angola, Colombia, Eritrea, Haiti, Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa, & Tanzania.  Shana has worked with refugee communities in Chicago since 1991. As director of Heartland Alliance’s refugee & immigrant community services and later as director of Chicago Public School’s international newcomer center, she focused on improving systems and empowering refugee youth and families in ways that could benefit all. Recognizing a systemic disconnect between American public school culture and refugee families, and a growing need to engage newcomer adolescents in a meaningful way, Shana launched REACH. Shana is also a faculty member at DePaul University and an independent consultant for grassroots refugee organizations. As an avid hiker, cyclist, paddler, and lifelong learner, Shana aspires to share her love for the human and non-human elements of the life-world with REACH participants.

FPO-Kristen Bio Pic.jpg

Kristen Huffman-Gottschling

Board Vice President

Kristen has been a licensed social worker for 20+ years. She is also a Professor at UIC's Jane Addams College of Social Work, specializing in the integration of refugee youth in high schools. Kristen is the former Director of Horizons Clinic-World Relief-Chicago, which provided mental health services to refugee families in Albany Park. She currently serves as the Executive Director of PACTT Learning Center.

FPO-Steve Bio Pic.jpg

Steve Key

Board Secretary

Steve is an active REACH volunteer whose professional background is in the arts. He served as the artistic director of Shattered Globe Theatre and he is an ensemble member of American Blues Theatre. Steve recently performed in Tracy Lett’s BUG at Steppenwolf Theatre, and in Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning SWEAT, both on Broadway and on its National Tour. Steve is an outdoor adventure enthusiast who has had a lifelong commitment to service.

FPO-Stephanie Bio Pic.jpg

Stephanie Thomas

Board Treasurer

Stephanie is a mom who, with Shana, founded and coordinated a Refugee Welcome Project at Whittier Elementary School in Oak Park, raising money and awareness among the school community to address issues facing new refugee families in Chicago. She and her son first joined REACH as volunteers. She is now thrilled to be serving as a board member.

FPO-Rasha Bio Pic.jpg

Rasha Al Hasnawi

Board Member

Rasha is a REACH parent who also volunteers at many adventure camp sessions and overnight trips. She and her family arrived as refugees from Iraq in 2015. Rasha has a background in early childhood education and currently works full-time in her field. She is fondly referred to as "REACH den mom" by many youth participants.

Jason Bio Pic.jpg

Jason Brashares

Board Member

Jason is an Art Director and Eco-Retreat Leader who has assisted REACH with branding, marketing, and volunteering since 2016. He has a wide range of outdoors guiding experience from camping and backpacking trips in the US to large international retreat groups. Jason looks forward to doing all he can to advance the REACH mission.

IMG_2113_edited.jpg

Sajjad Lafta

Board Member

Sajjad is a former REACH Peer Mentor who arrived as a refugee from Iraq in 2013 when he was 11 years old.  He is currently enrolled in college and studying to be a nurse. As a proud graduate of REACH programs, Sajjad understands the positive impact they can have on young people and he looks forward to furthering REACH's vision and scope. 

Samar Mesleh 1.jpg

Samar Mesleh

Board Member

Sama's bio coming soon.

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You!

Board Member

Are you interested in joining

the REACH board? We'd love to talk!

 

Click below to get started:

In Memory of Jim Berg

Our Friend and REACH Board Member

The world lost a kind adventurer in February 2024, REACH board member Jim Berg. Everyone here at REACH will miss our friend and colleague more than words can express.

 

Jim has been an integral part of our team and his impact on the lives of REACH youth will be felt for many years to come.

REACH STAFF.

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Abdul is refugee from Syria but spent 5 years in Jordan after fleeing the war. He resettled in Chicago with his mother and two siblings when he was 13 years old. Soon after arriving, Abdul became a REACH summer camp participant, then served as a Peer Mentor until he graduated in 2021. Abdul is currently studying at Oakton Community College and also works a seasonal shift at Chicago River Canoe & Kayak. He joined the REACH team in summer 2022. He enjoys storytelling around a campfire, taking impromptu road trips, and being open to experience.

Abdul Al Ibrahim

Peer Mentor Leadership Coach | Community Liaison

Abdul Al Ibrahim

Peer Mentor 

Leadership Coach & Community Liaison

Abdul is refugee from Syria but spent 5 years in Jordan after fleeing the war. He resettled in Chicago with his mother and two siblings when he was 13 years old. Soon after arriving . . . READ MORE >

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Felicia Lemmon

Adventure Sports Coach 

Felicia Lemmon

Adventure Sports Coach

Felicia, 22, is a college graduate who loves nature and adventure. She grew up in central Michigan, surrounded by forests and lakes. She studied Political Science and German at DePaul . . .  READ MORE >

Felicia, 22, is a college graduate who loves nature and adventure. She grew up in central Michigan, surrounded by forests and lakes. She studied Political Science and German at DePaul University in Chicago, with a focus on International Relations. She joined REACH to share her passion for outdoor activities such as hiking and archery with the kids. She is also eager to learn new skills like kayaking and climbing. Besides REACH, Felicia is a keen reader and a sporty person who enjoys running and boxing.

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Bio coming soon.

Cailie Kafura

Community Liaison

Program Coordinator

Bio coming soon . . . READ MORE >

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Bio coming soon.

Rosette Mamboleo

Adventure Sports Coach & Camp Counselor

Adventure Sports Coach

Bio coming soon . . .  READ MORE >

REACH STAFF.

Abdul Al Ibrahim

Peer Mentor Leadership Coach

Abdul is refugee from Syria but spent 5 years in Jordan after fleeing the war. He resettled in Chicago with his mother and two siblings when he was 13 years old. Soon after arriving, Abdul became a REACH summer camp participant, then served as a Peer Mentor until he graduated in 2021. He's currently studying at Oakton Community College and also works a seasonal shift at Chicago River Canoe & Kayak. He joined the REACH team in summer 2022. He enjoys storytelling around a campfire, taking impromptu road trips, and being open to experience.

REACH Staff Photo - Abdul 1.jpg
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Felicia Lemmon

Adventure Sports Coach 

Felicia, 22, is a college graduate who loves nature and adventure. She grew up in central Michigan, surrounded by forests and lakes. She studied Political Science and German at DePaul University in Chicago, with a focus on International Relations. She joined REACH to share her passion for outdoor activities such as hiking and archery with the kids. She is also eager to learn new skills like kayaking and climbing. Besides REACH, Felicia is a keen reader and a sporty person who enjoys running and boxing.

Community Liaison

Bio coming soon.

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Adventure Sports Coach

Bio coming soon.

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PEER MENTOR ADVISORY CORPS.

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My name is Lina. I am 16 years old and originally from Iraq. I arrived in Chicago when I was 8 years old. I started with REACH in 2018. I was one of the first girls to join REACH. One of my favorite memories with REACH was our girls’ camping trip. It was just the girls having fun and learning a lot of things.  REACH is fun and teaches you a lot of things about different cultures. You meet new people and find out more about them than in normal friendships. There are a lot of adventures, like kayaking, hiking, camping, and you learn to build your own tents and cook meals over the fire. REACH requires a lot of teamwork. As a Peer Mentor, I want to learn to be more patient and be a better leader and try to listen to what the younger kids have to say. A little progress each day adds up to big results!

Lina

Joined 2018

Lina

Joined 2018

My name is Lina. I am 16 years old and originally from Iraq. I arrived in Chicago when I was 8 years old. I started with REACH in 2018. I was one of the first girls to join REACH ... READ MORE >

REACH PM Photo - Kasper 2.jpg

Kasper

Joined 2016

Kasper

Joined 2016

My name is Kasper. I'm 17 years old and I'm from Chicago. Bio coming soon ... READ MORE >

My name is Kasper. I'm 17 years old and I'm from Chicago. Bio coming soon!

REACH PM Photo - Mohammad 1_edited.jpg

I’m Mohammad and I’m 13 years old. I came to Chicago from Afghanistan in 2021. Since joining REACH in 2022, I’ve learned a lot of good things like you need to be brave, and not to be afraid of the dark or the water. I learned a lot of things about nature, leaves, and animals. I speak 3 languages so I try really hard to make sure others understand what is happening during REACH sessions. I am so proud of what I accomplished through REACH so far and of being selected as a future leader.

Mohammad

Joined 2022

Esa

Joined 2022

I’m Mohammad Esa and I’m 13 years old. I came to Chicago from Afghanistan in 2021.  Since joining REACH in 2022, I’ve learned a lot of good things, like you need to .. READ MORE >

REACH PM Photo - Masooma 1.jpg

I’m Masooma. I’m 17 years old and I’m from Afghanistan. I joined REACH in the summer of 2021. My favorite REACH learning activity is kayaking because when I first started, I had no clue what I was doing, but another Peer Mentor taught me to pay attention and listen and watch what he was doing and then put those steps into action. And now I really like helping other kids the same way! I feel pretty lucky to be a Peer Mentor because I’ve gone on a lot of adventures, especially the 10-day trip out west to Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska. I loved being in Wyoming where we had to stop and set up camp before a thunderstorm came. The sky was really pretty and we made a quick dinner before it started raining really hard. Appreciate simplicity and just how much the world has to offer!

Masooma

Joined 2021

Masooma

Joined 2021

I’m Masooma. I’m 17 years old and I’m from Afghanistan. I joined REACH in the summer of 2021. My favorite REACH learning activity is kayaking because when I first started ... READ MORE >

REACH PM Photo - Mohamed 1_edited_edited.jpg

My name is Mohamed. I'm 13 years old and I'm from Sudan. My brother and I joined REACH 3 months after arriving in Chicago. My first experiences kayaking and ice skating were very challenging, but I am getting better each time I practice. I like helping people so I want to do my best to make other kids feel safe and happy as a Peer Mentor.

Mohamed

Joined 2022

Mohamed

Joined 2022

My name is Mohamed. I'm 13 years old and I'm from Sudan. My brother and I joined REACH 3 months after arriving in Chicago. My first experiences kayaking and ice skating were very ... READ MORE >

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I’m Hozaifa...

Hozaifa

Joined 2023

Hozaifa

Joined 2023

I’m Hozaifa ... READ MORE >

REACH PM Photo - Payman 1.jpg

I’m Payman. I’m 16 years old and originally from Afghanistan. I came to the U.S. in the winter of 2019.  When I first joined REACH in the spring of 2021, my favorite experience was learning to kayak because you need to be in shape and skilled to go fast and not flip your boat. I have a lot of good memories of all the hikes I have done with REACH, especially the ones out West because they were so diverse with mountains, rivers, lakes, and boulders. As a Peer Mentor, I feel responsible and accountable for my actions. I am a role model to others – newer refugee kids, and while I’m learning my own leadership skills, I’m also teaching and showing others the core values of nature. Kindness flows!

Payman

Joined 2021

Payman

Joined 2021

I’m Payman. I’m 16-years-old and originally from Afghanistan. I came to the U.S. in the winter of 2019.  When I first ... READ MORE >

REACH PM Photo - Wagdi 1.jpg

I'm Wagdi and I'm 14 years old. My family and I lived in Jordan before coming to Chicago in 2022 as refugees from Sudan. When I joined REACH that summer, I made new friends and learned a lot of interesting things like archery, kayaking, and camping. My favorite experience was getting lost while mountain biking because it taught me how to stay calm like a leader. I really care about helping other people and making them feel safe and calm, while also having fun. 

Wagdi

Joined 2022

Wagdi

Joined 2022

I'm Wagdi and I'm almost 14 years old. My family and I lived in Jordan before coming to Chicago in 2022 as refugees from Sudan. When I joined REACH that summer, I made new friends ... READ MORE >

PEER MENTOR ADVISORY CORPS.

REACH PM Photo - Lina 1.jpg

Lina

Joined 2018

My name is Lina. I am 16 years old and originally from Iraq. I arrived in Chicago when I was 8 years old. I started with REACH in 2018. I was one of the first girls to join REACH. One of my favorite memories with REACH was our girls’ camping trip. It was just the girls having fun and learning a lot of things.  REACH is fun and teaches you a lot of things about different cultures. You meet new people and find out more about them than in normal friendships. There are a lot of adventures, like kayaking, hiking, camping, and you learn to build your own tents and cook meals over the fire. REACH requires a lot of teamwork. As a Peer Mentor, I want to learn to be more patient and be a better leader and try to listen to what the younger kids have to say. A little progress each day adds up to big results!

REACH PM Photo - Kasper 2.jpg

Kasper

Joined 2016

My name is Kasper. I'm 17 years old and I'm from Chicago. Bio coming soon!

REACH PM Photo - Mohammad 1.jpg

Esa

Joined 2022

I’m Mohammad and I’m 13 years old. I came to Chicago from Afghanistan in 2021. Since joining REACH in 2022, I’ve learned a lot of good things like you need to be brave, and not to be afraid of the dark or the water. I learned a lot of things about nature, leaves, and animals. I speak 3 languages so I try really hard to make sure others understand what is happening during REACH sessions. I am so proud of what I accomplished through REACH so far and of being selected as a future leader.

REACH PM Photo - Masooma 1.jpg

Masooma

Joined 2021

I’m Masooma. I’m 17 years old and I’m from Afghanistan. I joined REACH in the summer of 2021. My favorite REACH learning activity is kayaking because when I first started, I had no clue what I was doing, but another Peer Mentor taught me to pay attention and listen and watch what he was doing and then put those steps into action. And now I really like helping other kids the same way! I feel pretty lucky to be a Peer Mentor because I’ve gone on a lot of adventures, especially the 10-day trip out west to Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska. I loved being in Wyoming where we had to stop and set up camp before a thunderstorm came. The sky was really pretty and we made a quick dinner before it started raining really hard. Appreciate simplicity and just how much the world has to offer!

REACH PM Photo - Mohamed 1.jpg

Mohamed

Joined 2022

My name is Mohamed. I'm 12 years old and I'm from Sudan. My brother and I joined REACH 3 months after arriving in Chicago. My first experiences kayaking and ice skating were very challenging, but I am getting better each time I practice. I like helping people so I want to do my best to make other kids feel safe and happy as a Peer Mentor.

IMG_5729_edited_edited.jpg

Hozaifa

Joined 2022

My name is Stephano or “Steven” and I am 11 years old. I am originally from Rwanda. I arrived in the U.S. in June 2019 and I joined REACH three years later. My favorite REACH activity so far has been mountain biking in the woods. It was so much fun and so fast. I didn’t fall once. It’s nice to be a Peer Mentor-in-Training because I like helping people. It feels good.

REACH PM Photo - Payman 1.jpg

Payman

Joined 2021

I’m Payman. I’m 15-years-old and originally from Afghanistan. I came to the U.S. in the winter of 2019.  When I first joined REACH in the spring of 2021, my favorite experience was learning to kayak because you need to be in shape and skilled to go fast and not flip your boat. I have a lot of good memories of all the hikes I have done with REACH, especially the ones out West because they were so diverse with mountains, rivers, lakes, and boulders. As a Peer Mentor, I feel responsible and accountable for my actions. I am a role model to others – newer refugee kids, and while I’m learning my own leadership skills, I’m also teaching and showing others the core values of nature.  Kindness flows!

REACH PM Photo - Wagdi 1.jpg

Wagdi

Joined 2022

I'm Wagdi and I'm almost 14 years old. My family and I lived in Jordan before coming to Chicago in 2022 as refugees from Sudan. When I joined REACH that summer, I made new friends and learned a lot of interesting things like archery, kayaking, and camping. My favorite experience was getting lost while mountain biking because it taught me how to stay calm like a leader. I really care about helping other people and making them feel safe and calm, while also having fun. 

PEER MENTOR GRADUATES (2023)

REACH PM Photo - Maisam 1.jpg

My name is Maisam.  I’m a college freshman at Columbia University where I am studying Political Science. I'm originally from Afghanistan. I came to the U.S. in the winter of 2019. My favorite aspect of REACH is the opportunities it provides for refugees, like learning about our abilities and our roles in this place we now call home. As a Peer Mentor, I realized my passion about advocating for my community and how community engagement enables people like me to foster leadership. I also learned how important it is to be open to engaging with others. Leadership doesn't just happen, it's a continuation of engagement and growth!

Maisam

Joined 2021

Maisam

Joined 2021

My name is Maisam.  I’m a college freshman at Columbia University where I am studying Political Science. I'm originally from Afghanistan. I came to the U.S. in the winter ... READ MORE >

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I'm Muntadher. I’m from Iraq. I came to the U.S. in 2015 and joined REACH when I was 13 years old. REACH gave me the opportunity to experience the outdoors in a way that was totally new to me. I graduated from the Leadership Program in July 2023, after 4 years of service as a Peer Mentor. I’m now studying Computer Science with a minor in Entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m keeping busy as a member of the Boxing Club and as a Shift Lead at a university-based shop. I also joined a Start-Up Community Club, which is run by Business Faculty, where I received a grant to do industry research on laser tag and to establish a prototype app that allows you to play with anyone around you who has the extension in real life. REACH helped me to become very social and outgoing, to explore my environment and community, and it inspired me to propose the laser tag idea because I wanted kids and their families to be outdoors and engaging one another in real life. Every day is a lesson, don’t be scared to fail!

Muntadher

Joined 2017

Muntadher

Joined 2017

I'm Muntadher. I’m from Iraq. I came to the U.S. in 2015 and joined REACH when I was 13 years old. REACH gave me the opportunity to experience the outdoors in a way that was totally new to me. .. READ MORE >

REACH PM Photo - Nur Aga 1.jpg

I’m Nur Aga. I’m Afghan and arrived to Chicago in 2019. At REACH, I really loved getting out into nature and learning new skills. After graduating from the Peer Mentor Leadership Program in August 2023, I left for Bates College to major in Biology on a Pre-Dental track. My goal is to become an Orthodontist. When I’m not studying, I volunteer with the local Habitat for Humanity and at St. Mary’s Medical Center. REACH has had a lasting impact on me. For example, I applied to work as a mentor for local kids with the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Maine where I will use the leadership skills developed at REACH to set a good example for the youth participants. I also joined the Bates Outing Club so that I can continue to get outside of my comfort zone, to seek adventure, and to hang out with really cool people.

Nur Aga

Joined 2021

Nur Aga

Joined 2021

I’m Nur Aga. I’m Afghan, and arrived to Chicago in 2019.At REACH, I really loved getting out into nature and learning new skills. After graduating from the Peer Mentor Leadership Program in August 2023, I left for Bates ... READ MORE >

PEER MENTOR GRADUATES (2023)

REACH PM Photo - Maisam 1.jpg

Maisam

Joined 2021

My name is Maisam.  I’m a college freshman at Columbia University where I am studying Political Science. I'm originally from Afghanistan. I came to the U.S. in the winter of 2019. My favorite aspect of REACH is the opportunities it provides for refugees, like learning about our abilities and our roles in this place we now call home. As a Peer Mentor, I realized my passion about advocating for my community and how community engagement enables people like me to foster leadership. I also learned how important it is to be open to engaging with others. Leadership doesn't just happen, it's a continuation of engagement and growth!

IMG_0180_edited_edited_edited.jpg

Muntadher

Joined 2017

I'm Muntadher. I’m from Iraq. I came to the U.S. in 2015 and joined REACH when I was 13 years old. REACH gave me the opportunity to experience the outdoors in a way that was totally new to me. I graduated from the Leadership Program in July 2023, after 4 years of service as a Peer Mentor. I’m now studying Computer Science with a minor in Entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m keeping busy as a member of the Boxing Club and as a Shift Lead at a university-based shop. I also joined a Start-Up Community Club, which is run by Business Faculty, where I received a grant to do industry research on laser tag and to establish a prototype app that allows you to play with anyone around you who has the extension in real life. REACH helped me to become very social and outgoing, to explore my environment and community, and it inspired me to propose the laser tag idea because I wanted kids and their families to be outdoors and engaging one another in real life. Every day is a lesson, don’t be scared to fail!

REACH PM Photo - Nur Aga 1.jpg

Nur Aga

Joined 2021

I’m Nur Aga. I’m Afghan and arrived to Chicago in 2019. At REACH, I really loved getting out into nature and learning new skills. After graduating from the Peer Mentor Leadership Program in August 2023, I left for Bates College to major in Biology on a Pre-Dental track. My goal is to become an Orthodontist. When I’m not studying, I volunteer with the local Habitat for Humanity and at St. Mary’s Medical Center. REACH has had a lasting impact on me. For example, I applied to work as a mentor for local kids with the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Maine where I will use the leadership skills developed at REACH to set a good example for the youth participants. I also joined the Bates Outing Club so that I can continue to get outside of my comfort zone, to seek adventure, and to hang out with really cool people.

PARTNERS.

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Illinois Refugee Social Service Consortium
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