Young Leaders Institute

Cultivate skills. Connect with community. Create change.

“YLI is a place where I found community amongst like-minded South Asians Americans who are passionate about justice.” –Jasveen, The New School, 2016 YLI Fellow

“I felt empowered to create change.  New ideas were forming in my mind on how to involve my campus in the revolution.” –Priya, University of Florida, 2015 YLI Fellow

SAALT’s Young Leaders Institute (YLI) is an opportunity for undergraduate students and other young adults in the U.S. to build leadership skills, connect with activists and mentors, and explore social change strategies around issues that affect South Asian and immigrant communities in the U.S.  The Institute is designed to cultivate skills to deepen knowledge and awareness, strengthen and nurture relationships with diverse communities, and empower young leaders to be agents of change.

The 2017-2018 Young Leaders Institute theme is “Combating Islamophobia.” Islamophobia or the systemic hostility and discrimination enacted toward those who are or are perceived to be Muslim is a complicated and fraught issue in the South Asian American community. Combating Islamophobia requires work within and outside our communities to ensure that we address our own biases and internalized oppression while also fighting systems and policies that diminish, criminalize, and discriminate against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim. As we continue to head into uncertain and even dangerous times ahead, it is more important than ever that the South Asian American community effectively combats Islamophobia in all its forms. The 2017-2018 YLI cohort will work to understand the perspectives of individuals most impacted by Islamophobia, the systemic nature of Islamophobia and how it manifests in policies at all levels including college campuses, and develop ways to challenge and disrupt Islamophobia in our families and communities.

Meet our 2017-2018 Young Leaders Institute Cohort!

Anika will be designing and implementing workshops addressing anti-Blackness within South Asian Muslim communities so that our communities are better able to mobilize around racism and draw connections between racism and Islamophobia.




Faraz plans on organizing an awareness campaign for Islamophobia and creating avenues for discussion and problem solving. The campaign will be held at Rutgers University with help from various student and local community organizations.


Jess will recruit and mentor a team of undergraduates from South Asian, Arab, and/or Muslim backgrounds. Together, using skills and connections she has fostered through prior political and social media mobilization experiences, she believes we can address the dimensionality of Islamophobia through legal, political, literary, and artistic work.



Jiya will create an academic journal of work on South Asian studies as they relate to the topic of Islamophobia, culminating in a conference where students present and hear initiatives, personal experiences, and call to actions on the topic.


Juwairiah will be conducting a professional development-training program for professors on campus centered around Islamophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and any type of fear or hatred others use that add to the overall problem. This program is meant to aid in combating the various biases and beliefs which create a difficult learning environment for students.


Kiran will work to coordinate a workshop series on South Asian Identity and Civic Engagement in America. She firmly believes that understanding our identity as South Asians in America and the histories of solidarity between Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and atheists in our collective fight for justice in this country is an integral part of combating Islamophobia on the University of Chicago campus and beyond.


Mahfuzur seeks to organize South Asian communities in NYC into the Black Lives Matter Movement as a means to thwart police brutality and combat Islamophobia from law enforcement. He will work with several campus groups and organizations in City College to educate them on shared experiences and complexities that exist with both communities, and provide tools and resources for civic engagements, action, and resistance so that black and brown advocates can rise up and shut down abuse from the state.

Monika will focus on increasing an interfaith dialogue and bringing more visibility to the Muslim student population on campus.




Noah will focus on increasing the civic engagement of the Indo-Caribbean community in Queens, New York, who are generally excluded from South Asian identity or the conversation about Islamophobia. He will partner with Indo-Caribbean Association, to host a series of Fete Forums, which will combine traditional Indo-Caribbean food and music of a fete (party), with discussion about combating xenophobic hate speech, hate violence, police profiling and surveillance in the community.



Rakin will work to repeal House Bill 522 (anti-Sharia legislation) in North Carolina. He wants the state of North Carolina to confirm its commitment to Muslims, and stop tolerating the rampant anti-Muslim hate throughout the state.


Rupa will explore Islamophobia in the medical sector, specifically how fear and hatred of Muslims can lead to adverse effects on patients by healthcare professionals. She plans to assess the extent of both overt and covert discrimination in healthcare facilities by surveying individuals in both Pennsylvania and Alabama, to develop a series of recommendations from what is learned from the surveys to be passed on to public officials, and to form a larger movement to eliminate discrimination against South Asian American populations in the healthcare field.

Sahana will work towards changing the framework through which we understand the South Asian community on campus. She wishes to cultivate space for all South Asian narratives represented in a way that does not tokenize, but instead makes the community feel safe and radically inclusive for each of its members.



Samah will focus on bringing together institutionalized organizations on campus and grassroots communities in Greater Salt Lake for a creative year-long educational series about Islamophobia. Her main goals are to create a sustainable collective commitment to protecting communities affected by anti-Muslim racism, and to encourage community activism among students.



Sania will focus her project around our immigrant and undocumented youth. The ultimate goal is to bring future and current community organizers together to collaborate on ways to create inclusive environments within our communities.


Shilpa will focus on combating Islamophobia within the Hindu community. She plans to work with Georgetown student organizations and local community organizations to critically examine privilege and oppression within the South Asian community.



Zaha will create a panel on campus with representation of every type of Muslim woman. The goal is to create an all-inclusive discussion to learn more about real women in Islam and not just the portrayal of Muslim women in media to highlight that not just one woman’s voice represents Islam.



Review the Young Leaders Institute Frequently Asked Questions page here

Meet past SAALT Young Leaders Institute Cohorts