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August 1, 2005

Below is an article about my daughter in our local newspaper in New York early July 2005. I thought you may want to posted on your site. Thanks, -- Seyed Hosseini


Coming of age after 9/11
Croton grad overcomes taunts to make a difference

by Adam Stone

Imagine this: You're a fun-loving teenager. You consider yourself an American above all else. Your parents are Muslim, and you are brought up that way, but you're only mildly religious.

Then, on a sunny Tuesday morning, a group of lunatics crash two jetliners into the Twin Towers.

What next?

Some of your peers dub you a "terrorist."

Welcome to Azade Hosseini's freshman year at Croton-Harmon High School.

"I was perceived differently," Hosseini, who moved to Croton when she was 13, recalled. "At some point I just told them, 'This isn't cool.' They got the message."

Now, four years later, Hosseini has graduated from that very high school.

Instead of growing bitter, Hosseini, 18, continued to immerse herself in her two great - and intertwined - passions.

Travel and politics.

She has traveled extensively to the Middle East with her parents.

Hosseini's Turkish mother, Hurriyet, leans to the political left, while her Iranian father, Seyed, leans to the right.

"They never tried to indoctrinate me politically," she said. "They want me to think for myself."

Of what she has learned from her travels, Hosseini said, "people think the Middle East is dangerous, but a random stranger will feed you, or just give you help. On TV you only see the bad things."

Tracking politics and current events by itself is rare for a teenager, let alone getting involved in the process.

Hosseini has participated in protests against the Iraq war, campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2000 and has attended political rallies, such as one for Amadou Diallo, the Bronx man who was shot and killed in 1999 by four New York City police officers.

But it was Hosseini's formation of her high school's Humanitarian Aid Club that truly impresses.

This is how she tells it:

"In my junior year of high school, I was introduced to the Heifer Foundation by my father.

This is an organization that raises money to buy livestock for people in developing nations so that they may learn how to help themselves, an ideal that immediately captured my attention. Rather than just handing out money, this organization gives communities around the world a chance to earn a living, eat and learn how to operate as a team by using the resources of the animal.

"Anyway, this idea led me to start the Humanitarian Aid Club at my school, which was somewhat based on the ideals of the Heifer Foundation. Essentially, HAC was dedicated to creating awareness among the student body on issues that are both indirectly and directly facing us today. We raised money for emergency relief causes as well as international, community-based projects, such as the tsunami relief, sending books to schools in poor communities, actually building a school abroad, etc. Mainly, the purpose of the club was to create awareness, which I think was a success."

Think that's heady stuff?

Get this:

"My hope is to someday work on cures to some of the most problematic diseases of our time and also to work with developing nations by not only trafficking much needed pharmaceuticals to those countries, but also making them affordable to people, such as AIDS victims," Hosseini said.

In the fall, she'll be attending SUNY Buffalo, entering a PhD program in pharmaceutical and bio-chemistry.

Since she was a baby, Hosseini has been to Turkey eight times, Iran eight times, France twice, Italy, Sweden, Denmark and Mexico twice, among other destinations.

This summer, she will be traveling to Denmark, Morocco and Spain.

" My parents have taught me the importance of traveling by taking me all over the world," Hosseini said. "They wanted to teach me to tolerate and respect other cultures, because ultimately, the way you see the world is how you will treat your neighbor."

Hosseini, like the rest of her graduating class, came of age during the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

It was the first month of this young woman's freshman year of high school when her world - our world - was forever changed.

She was in her earth science class. She was taking a test. She heard the news.

" During the first week of my freshman year, September 11th happened and it changed my life forever," she said. "'What a great way to start my high school career,' I thought. Being a Muslim, which is by the way a very small minority in Croton, everyone looked at me a bit differently after the tragic event. Although it didn't bother (me) much that people treated me differently, it slowly built up over time to the point where my closest friends were slowly fading away. (It) bothered me when friends would 'jokingly' call me names that referred to the past events, but I just kept telling myself that they could never understand and they were saying these things maybe to release anger or confusion.

" Instead of getting mad, I decided to educate them about my religion and my background.

During the holy month of Ramadan, surprisingly, a bunch of my friends wanted to fast with me. And even more surprisingly, they actually lasted the entire 30 days. I think this was an act that not only proved that my friends supported me, but it also showed that they were willing to learn about other cultures and religions."

There's another date on the calendar that surely carries with it great meaning to Hosseini: July 4.

After all, as she put it, "I think of myself as an American first."

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