Youth WELL-BEING

By Basit, Abdul | Islamic Horizons, July/August 2008 | Go to article overview

Youth WELL-BEING


Basit, Abdul, Islamic Horizons


National summit discusses ways to promote the well-being of Arab and Muslim American youths.

The message echoing from the national summit hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Dearborn (MI) on 26-27 Mar. 2008 was quite clear: the well-being of Arab and Muslim American youths is an important part of the national agenda.

"Above all, it is about helping Arab and Muslim American youths negotiate the American experience, be well, pursue their interests, and celebrate the liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and the pursuit of happiness that are its centerpieces," declared Dr. Terry Cline (chief administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of [SAMHSA]) in his opening remarks. In his graceful, meaningful, and thoughtful message, Cline explained the reasons for holding this summit and recognized SAMHSA's important role in promoting the mental health and resilience of these two groups.

For two days, the nearly 300 attendees heard presentations and attended parallel sessions on such topics as developing community-based partnerships for youth services, faith-based community services, understanding before emotional and behavioral problems and principles of counseling for religious caregivers, domestic violence and its impact upon families, the healing power of faith, the process of grant-funding and grant-writing, the resettlement of refugees, youth leadership, and other topics related to integration, resettlement, and emotional and behavioral problems.

All of the seminars, many of which were innovative and exciting, provided useful information for resolving the problems facing these two communities. Given that most social service centers are in dire need of funds to keep their programs operational, the seminar for grant-funding and grant-writing was very well attended. The experts who addressed the seminar for religious caregivers did such an excellent job of explaining emotional and behavioral problems and the basic principles of counseling in simple terms that many attendees requested copies of this presentation. Those who attended the "Healing Power of Faith" seminar were surprised to learn that modern research has shown that spiritual involvement is positively related to health and inversely related to disorders. The domestic violence seminar, which provided the underlying statistics and discussed how to prevent domestic violence, also attracted many people.

The keynote speeches, in particular, helped many people better understand the problems facing Arab and Muslim American youths and seemed to have made a great impact upon them. Cline hoped that the summit "will build more effective programs that broaden understanding between parents and children, teachers and students, and diverse members of the community at large ... we can be messengers of hope, teachers of prevention, and architects of improved service systems."

Noel Saleh (president, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services; board member, The Arab American Institute) did a remarkable job of tracing the history of Arabs in America.

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