What is Rising Leaders?
Rising Leaders is a youth based organization for all Pakistanis living in the U.S. It started as an initiative by the interns at the Embassy of Pakistan in the summer of 2004. The main motivation was to create an organization for Pakistani-Americans interested in or pursuing degrees in Political Science, Media, Communications, Arts and the Humanities. Rising Leaders wants to create the impetus for increased networking among the Pakistani-American youth and showcase the success that our community has already achieved.
What is the significance of such an initiative for the Pakistani American community?
Rising Leaders is an extremely important development for the Pakistani-American community. Firstly, it is a sign of “coming of age” of the community that has settled in the U.S by looking beyond material and financially lucrative professions to building influence through professions that are viewed as “giving back to society.” All diasporas
in the U.S. have gone through similar development and have succeeded in addressing the needs specific to their community through effective organization. Rising Leaders hope to train the upcoming generation into an organized and cohesive force so that it strengthens the Pakistani-American community. Secondly, Rising Leaders embraces both the Pakistani and American elements, in the identity of the first generation of Pakistanis who have lived their whole lives in the U.S. Thirdly, Rising Leaders are examples of successful young individuals who have pursued their dream careers, despite the pressure to do “pre-med” and hope to give support to people who desire to pursue their dreams – be it acting, being a news anchor, or running for Congress. This support is not just financial but also advisory and we hope to create a mentorship program from within our membership, connecting members interested in certain careers with those who are currently employed in that field.
How is Rising Leaders organized?
We have an 11 member Board of Directors with an Executive Director that manages all of Rising Leaders activities. In April 2005, Rising Leaders held its first Strategic Planning Event. Through this workshop, membership needs were examined, as well as what had worked and what needed improvement. The Strategic Planning brought around specific goals for Rising Leaders in the upcoming year. 1) Create a structure with regional chapters that have a separate Board of Directors and set of activities to execute by 2006. 2) Establish an Endowment that will support the activities of Rising Leaders by 2006. 3) Have a model chapter running in Washington D.C. by 2006 that others can replicate across the nation. At this conference we conceived of a structure in which chapters of Rising Leaders would be set up in different cities across the U.S. We have begun the process of establishing chapters in New York City, Houston, and Atlanta. We already have a presence in Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas. There is interest from numerous more members in various cities to extend the nationwide Rising Leaders network.
What kind of events have you held so far?
Rising Leaders has held close to 15 events in the past year alone-ranging from art exhibitions to workshops on women’s rights and public speaking. We try our best to do something fresh and new with every event, bringing in inspiring speakers and creating an atmosphere of professionalism that hope to promote the diverse facets of the Pakistani heritage and combat the negative stereotypes that surround us in the West. In the near future we plan to have an event in Texas as well as establish chapters in New York and vote in new chapter leadership in Chicago.
What has been the impact of all these events vis-a-vis your goals?
We have increased our membership by fifty percent in the past 6 months alone, and the requests to start Rising Leaders chapters are too many for us to accommodate. Our events have incrementally increased our capacity to do outreach and impact more Pakistani-Americans than we ever even imagined possible! But we have no complaints, we are overwhelmed with the support we receive and are determined to live up to and beyond everyone’s expectations.