YCE Newsletter Spotlight

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Interviewed by:  Claire Schroeder

Abdul Ali is a face you might recognize. He was the emcee at a recent Portland BLM protest and he first came to the stage performing with Maine Inside Out. Ali wears many hats, perhaps too many to name, and among them are YCE initiatives:

Civic & Community Engagement Fellowship (CCEF) – Developing leadership with other people of color. So important to have an opportunity to connect with other youth of color ages 18-30 to discuss issues and challenges. We’re creating a team of youth, like the United Nations.

Young People’s Caucus (YPC) – We talk to legislators and people in power, we connect with decision-makers who sit down and listen, they ask us questions about the work they are doing right now and the bills they are working on. We’re the experts in our experience. It’s a powerful program that we need to make bigger.

There are many sides to Ali, and many different types of work he does, for example:

He’s a full time organizer with Maine Youth Justice. He organizes on behalf of youth previously (and not) incarcerated. He writes op-eds, does press interviews, and shares his unique perspective on youth incarceration. Another side of that work is as a Justice Policy Intern and Opportunity Scholar. He speaks about what it means to be a youth of color, a Muslim, previously incarcerated, and what people need upon being released from a juvenile facility. 

But that’s not all! Ali is a student and a father. He’s currently the artistic director and an actor with Maine Inside Out. He’s involved with Maine Youth Network, a Youth Driven group that offers an Islamic class twice a week, open to everyone. There’s an amazing mentor/teacher who leads the classes.

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Interviewed by:  Cheri Crossman

Thanks to Essential Workers like Sophia Dunton, we can still get our much needed coffee during a difficult time.


“It’s not easy to work 40 hours during a pandemic, but without it I would go crazy.” Sophia has been working at Dunkin Donuts for over two years and knows the job well which has helped her adjust so easily to the many new safety requirements and procedures in response to Covid. “We have to wear masks, I don’t know how nurses do it, wearing a mask can feel a little suffocating!  We have to wear gloves and wipe everything down, like the registers, counters, headsets, windows etc., with disinfectant every 30 min’s. I am washing my hands more, not touching my face, and changing my gloves often. Making sure that things are clean, even cleaner than they were before. All of these extra steps and just serving through the drive through with fewer employees is challenging, “I want customers to know we are doing the best we can to get their orders right and as fast as possible.”  Sophia feels confident that she is doing everything she can to prevent herself from getting sick while she also recognizes that she is working with the public so there is some risk.

Sophia is proud of the kindness that people are demonstrating during this time and hopes that once things go back to normal people will continue thoughtful acts such as paying for the orders of cars in front or behind them, “it really helps a long day when you have nice customers who are patient and understanding.”

Where do you work?

Dunkin Donuts, Brewer Maine

How long have you worked here?

I started working when I was 15 through the “Career Compass” and have been at Dunkin Donuts for just about 2 years. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind progressing to become a shift leader, but there are days when it is really hard and I want to quit and find something else to do. It helps when you have nice customers who are patient and understanding.



Interviewed by:  Pious Ali

Jolie Iraoya is a mother of four boys. They all attend school in Portland, including two in high school, one in middle school and one in elementary school. Jolie migrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Nigeria before coming to the U.S. She speaks four languages and is currently learning American Sign Language (ASL) so she can support and engage her son who has some hearing challenges.


I asked Jolie: 


What do you want others to know and understand about you and your experience?

“I have migrated twice, first to Nigeria where I didn’t speak any of the local languages, and then to the United States. That experience shaped me and helped me understand how to support myself, my kids and help others in the community. I have learned how to engage the education system and I am helping other new arrivals navigate the system. Just like my mother, people naturally come to me for help and I freely share what I know and support people in whatever way I can.”


It is clear how deeply committed Jolie is to being involved in the community. Whether as a volunteer with Preble Street or in the work she’s done as a Lead Parent Organizer with Portland Empowered, Jolie knows the value of giving back. Jolie did not waste time getting involved here in Maine. She arrived in 2018 and found organizations and people that she wanted to learn from and work alongside. She attended Portland Empowered’s Parent Ambassador Program in the fall of 2019 and became a Lead Parent Organizer after that. Jolie’s connection with other organizations has helped her connect others as well, an essential skill of any organizer. Jolie attributes her commitment to helping others and community organizing to her mother who helped others in her community and instilled in Jolie the value of giving back throughout her life. Jolie’s plans for the future include continuing to work to build a strong, vibrant, connected community.

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Interviewed by: Muntaha Mohamed

Mike Masudi is a youth leader with the Postsecondary Success Project. He recently started a position at TD bank, and he’s worked in Residential Care and in the IT department at Maine Medical Department.

I asked Mike:

What are some of the projects/organizations you’ve been involved with in Maine?

Well, I was done with high school when I came here, but was then sent back to high school because my credentials didn’t fit. Going back to high school and navigating the high school system in the United States was challenging plus I then moved from high school to adult education due to my age. I worked with guidance counselors and Portland Adult Education (PAE) to get my credentials and understand the education process. Once I got my credentials I worked at PAE to develop a learning lab that would focus on students like me, and other non-traditional students to reach their educational goals.

I’ve also had the opportunity to raise my voice and be an active part of society by joining the Post-Secondary Success Project.

Mike spoke about why he stays involved in creating change:

“I’ve been through all the torment of not knowing what to do, especially when it comes to coming to a new country like this one. You are placed in the air, and you don’t know where to put your feet. So I really had to be a part of the breeze, and figure out the connections that I had to make.

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Copyright 2016 | Youth and Community Engagement
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