As a young student coming of age at New Albany High School, I needed an inspiration to push me to become a contributing citizen in my community.
I was different from most of my peers and the broader community. I saw the world through the lens of a young, Muslim and black American girl born to immigrant parents.
The push of the conflicting narratives in politics and public discourse in this age of hyperpartisanship and polarization away from public service was strong. I wasn't immune to the disillusionment young people feel. Plus I felt "othered" in almost every aspect of my daily life. After all, I am a child of refugees.
But attending the Jefferson Series events gave me a different worldview.
Although my hometown, New Albany, is not the most diverse city in central Ohio, I began to realize during my freshman year that my city was unique in its efforts to cultivate leadership among youth, create global exposure and awareness and build the bridges to a brighter future.
Named after one of the most prominent founding fathers of our nation, Thomas Jefferson, the series was created to stimulate a lifelong learning and dialogue that attract some of the world's most compelling thinkers and leaders.
Since my freshmen year, I've listened to different national security experts and leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus and Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright.
Listening to these distinguished leaders inspired me to join TEDxNewAlbany, and now as the executive director, I use their inspiring message as a benchmark for our success.
The New Albany Community Foundation and the Jefferson Series allowed my peers and me to experience uplifting messages from world-class leaders and aspire to serve.
Never have I even dreamed of welcoming and introducing to my community a first-generation American who became a governor and later an ambassador to the United Nations. This month, I had the honor and privilege to welcome Nikki Haley to our community. As a daughter of refugee parents, it was one of the most inspirational moments of my life to welcome another daughter of immigrants who has achieved the American dream by becoming the first female governor of South Carolina and later the U.S ambassador to the United Nations.
I am forever grateful to the New Albany Community Foundation, which takes special care to ensure youth and young adults are represented in such remarkable forums.
Bilan Yakoub is the executive director of operations at TEDxNewAlbany and is a New Albany High School senior.