The People of OTRC: Meet Aya...OTRC Youth turned Youth Leader!

Aya leading an On the Road program

On the Road is a home to young people who are led by successful mentors in the Harrisonburg community. Current Youth Leader, Aya Al Jubouri, has had a unique experience in the program as she has been in both roles.

“In high school, I was enrolled in the On the Road English VOICES Club, a creative writing program that helps students improve their English. We wrote different quotes and all about our lives. I learned English in a very short period of time, which many people praised me for. I felt like I really accomplished something.”

Aya came to the United States from Iraq in 2014 and took ESL classes during her first year. She was introduced to On the Road by one of her teachers, who is the club coordinator for VOICES. Now, she is in her first year at Blue Ridge Community College, and works for the On the Road program at Thomas Harrison Middle School as a Youth Leader.

Aya posing with other youth leaders

“This program [On the Road] helped build my confidence! I used to be really shy because of my English. I have some ESL students in my class who I can definitely relate to because I understand when they struggle with words. I always try to tell them that it’s okay if they mispronounce words, and it’s only going to improve the more they work on it.”

Aya stressed how the program impacts her students the same way it did for herself. She talked about a student she helped once with 6 pages of math homework, and noticed later on in the semester his grades had improved. Aya shared she always encourages her students with what they are working on because it motivates them to keep going, even if it’s difficult.

Aya posing with On the Road youth

“I have a really close relationship with my students. I think they see me as a role model. Recently, they gave me a paper and it had, “Miss Aya” written on it and they wrote all of these words around my name like, “beautiful, wonderful, likes to help others, kind, nice…” It was so touching; they just did it on their own! I looked at and said, “Oh my gosh, that’s so wonderful; I love you guys!”

She said she gets excited when she sees her students achieving or working towards their goals, and praised the program for giving the students a trusting environment. When asked about the mission of On the Road, Aya concluded our conversation by saying, “It’s hard to explain it in words, but it’s a feeling when you help someone improve.”

photo of ashley bove

Ashley Bove is the contributing author for this post.
Ashley is a Senior at James Madison University studying Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communications and is serving as a Communications Intern with On the Road Collaborative this fall.