IAAB's Educational Philosophy
IAAB’s educational philosophy is based on over eight years of working directly with youth in the Iranian American community. IAAB’s philosophy is informed by an open, democratic, and participatory model of leadership, one that is grounded in diversity and a deep sense of collaboration. IAAB programs promote the notion of a community of learners in which empowerment is never top-down, but occurs in an environment where all participants take on the roles of teachers and learners. IAAB therefore considers inter-generational mentorship and collaboration as an especially meaningful context for youth development.
In each of its educational programs, IAAB strives to build a positive and inclusive environment that allows young Iranian Americans to develop leadership skills, foster strong friendships, and gain a deeper understanding of culture and identity. IAAB recognizes that the Iranian American community is diverse and vibrant, a characteristic that IAAB represents, embraces, and celebrates in its ethos and in each of its programs. IAAB therefore develops programs that invite young Iranian Americans to reflect on their shared history and their place in the Iranian diaspora, while working to build solidarity across difference. Through cultural, historical, and artistic workshops, community building activities, and critical discussions, IAAB’s educational programs assist students in identifying and developing responses to the issues they see affecting young people in the Iranian American community. This includes working together to interrogate negative images, construct more humanizing narratives, and practice various forms of leadership.
For IAAB, leaders are speakers, organizers, facilitators, and mentors, as well as writers, listeners, friends, artists, thinkers, historical and everyday actors. Leaders embody a sense of responsibility and service towards others. This quality is evident in the ways IAAB program participants consistently take on new leadership roles, working to share the tools and understandings developed through IAAB programs with younger members of the Iranian American community. Leaders ask questions about the world as it is and work to build the world as it could be.
In this spirit, IAAB also aims to situate our Iranian American experiences in a broader historical and global context, generating dialogue with other immigrant and diasporic communities. Through IAAB programs, students engage with the rich histories of communities of color in the United States as well the struggles of immigrant and diasporic communities the world over. IAAB encourages students to access and take control of their narratives, to learn their histories, and to affirm their transcultural identities.
Ultimately, IAAB seeks to develop a safe and supportive environment for young people to make sense of their shared experiences and stretch into new roles and practices. IAAB then works with students to brainstorm ways of taking these tools and experiences back to their communities, to create new spaces that ripple out beyond IAAB. IAAB also recognizes that as young people become actively involved in our programs, they bring new strengths and insights that help IAAB continue to grow and evolve. This is reflected in the new programs, workshops, and networks initiated by IAAB student leaders.
Students who go through IAAB’s programs leave with a stronger sense of self, history, agency, and community, developing lifelong friendships and the necessary skills to lead both inside and outside of the Iranian diaspora community. As an organization that privileges youth, IAAB emphasizes and works to cultivate the potential of every young person, and the potential of the broader Iranian diaspora community.