Senior and Vera Fellow Sally Abdelghafar is the recipient of the selective 2013 New York Teaching Fellowship for which she will be teaching English and special education to inner city students in high-needs schools. In addition to completing her dual-major in international human rights and law and women of the Middle East, Abdelghafar fulfilled the requirements of her Vera Fellowship this semester through an internship with Safe Horizon. Abdelghafar is in the CUNY Baccalaureate program that allows students to create their own major and schedule.
“I see myself and my family’s struggles in the students and individuals I interact with each and every day, which, in turn continues to spark my passion and drive to work with students and use education as a positive tool for empowerment,” said Abdelghafar. “I am thrilled to be offered the opportunity to work as a teacher in a high-needs school. Finding innovative ways to empower students to empower themselves truly changes a student's life, and, in some cases, saves them.”
Abdelghafar decided she wanted to be a NYC Teaching Fellow after her life-changing experience as a Vera Fellow. The John Jay-Vera Fellows Program is a collaborative project between John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the Vera Institute of Justice, and Vera’s spinoff agencies. The program provides transformative internship and academic experiences for undergraduates while students take specially-designed, theme-based seminars with Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP) faculty.
Professor Abby Stein, program advisor for the John Jay Vera Fellowship believes that the program resembles more of a lifestyle than an academic program. “Vera provides each student with very intense mentorship both in the classroom and on the job. The student: teacher ratio invites a level of personal engagement and students have an opportunity to work on research, analysis, writing, teaching, leadership skills, networking, and preparation for graduate school and the job market with the support of multiple mentors,” Stein said.
At Safe Horizon, Abdelghafar worked with trafficked victims in their Voices of Hope program and she coordinated job training opportunities for clients, sought out open employment positions, and searched for other services such as counseling that will help clients re-enter the workforce. Abdelghafar is also working on policy initiative entitled Theory of Change in which she will assist in researching the root causes of human trafficking.
“I love Vera because of the kind of people it attracts. I learn so much more from the perspectives of the other students. I am now so much more understanding because of those perspectives,” says Abdelghafar.
Abdelghafar says that the professors teaching in the Vera program are some of the best professors she has had, and she has significantly improved her writing skills through the program.
As a high school student, Abdelghafar assisted with launching a service learning program that allowed students from New York City to travel to the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, LA to work on environmental, racial, and social justice issues. In 2010, she co-founded an education initiative--Youth International Empowerment—for which she led two international trips to Cairo, Egypt with John Jay students to facilitate social empowerment workshops for Egyptian high school students in January 2011 and January 2012.
“I think my passion has shifted from not simply finding a career that will help people but working in solidarity with people,” said Abdelghafar.
To learn more about the John Jay Vera Fellowship Program, click here.