The JA spirit is easy to recognize

Each year, JA-Rocky Mountain awards college scholarships to graduating seniors who embody the JA Spirit. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing these young people are – it is truly one of the most rewarding things we do.

Over the years, I’ve been asked to define the “JA Spirit” and all I can say is that it is hard to describe, but easy to recognize. For example, it doesn’t take much effort to see the JA Spirit shining brightly in Mustafa Mobarez, one of our incredible 2016 scholarship recipients.

Mustafa has lived most of his life in fear of war and violence. Before transitioning to his new life in the U.S. in 2011, Mustafa was living as an Afghani refugee in Pakistan. The horrendous circumstances of Mustafa’s childhood do not hold him back; in fact, his experiences have sparked a determined pursuit to make a meaningful impact on society.

In his scholarship interview, Mustafa explained how his JA volunteer taught him that he can be a change maker – that he could discover his full potential and use it to bring positive change within his community. In Mustafa’s own words: “I have been fortunate to see, feel and experience two very different lifestyles. It is based on their experiences that I have chosen to pursue a lifestyle that maximizes my positive impact on my family, friends and broader community. At the end of the day, it is not about how much money I gain or how much material wealth I accumulate; rather, it is about how I use my expertise, knowledge and wealth to make a positive impact on the people and communities around me. It is only then that I can truly have a peaceful mind and soul.”

The scholarships we provide to students help them to make their educational dreams come true; however, it’s the JA team members like me who benefit most. The end of the school year is “crunch time” for our staff and it is easy to get bogged down in the details of getting our important work done. Having the privilege of hearing first-hand how JA changes lives, and in turn makes the word a better place, is a gift that reaffirms our beliefs, motivates our work and fills our JA Spirits.