Most high school kids play sports, hang out with friends and sleep in on weekends when they have some spare time. This is not the case for ONE member Akbar Khan, a rising high school senior from Salt Lake City, Utah. Akbar has gone above and beyond by starting Letters for Lives, an initiative to increase political participation in schools.
When I recently interviewed Akbar, 17, at ONE’s headquarters in D.C., I was in awe of his knowledge and passion for international development at such a young age. He noticed that the biggest reason why his peers weren’t more involved in the anti-poverty movement was because they didn’t know what they could do to help or didn’t feel motivated to do anything drastic on their own.
This past May, three weeks before school was let out for summer, Akbar came up with the idea to have the high school students write letters to their senators to encourage them to fund global relief efforts. Akbar talked to his teachers about having them support his idea and it was immediately put into action.
Akbar, an active ONE member, teamed up with ONE’s regional manager, Naresh Kumar, to assemble packets with information on ONE’s main issues: HIV/AIDS, malaria and agriculture.
These packets were then distributed to social studies and English classes at his high school. Teachers encouraged students to read about these global issues and write letters to their senators with their own thoughts. Akbar’s teachers were so impressed by Akbar’s idea that they even gave the students an incentive by offering extra credit for those who wrote letters. The result –- more than 600 letters were written to senators in just three weeks! Ninety-five percent of the letters written were based on ONE’s issues found in the packets Akbar handed out.
Akbar’s maturity and positive personality has made this initiative a huge success. “This is unlike any other school assignment because this one can literally save lives and make a huge difference,” he said. I hardly was surprised when I learned that this wasn’t Akbar’s first venture –- he is also the founder of the nonprofit, Bags to Riches.
Akbar should be an inspiration to us all that one (very young) person can make a big difference. I am confident that this guy is going to change the world someday. Great work, Akbar!