Linda Amrou might be the only 18-year-old who lives by a trio of rules established not by her family, her church or her school, but by herself.
Faith, family, friends — in that order.
“I have a duty to a higher power to make the world a better place,” Amrou, UT’s third monthly Jefferson Awards honoree, explained shortly after she was presented with a certificate, medallion and pin during a town hall meeting last week.
Her simple statement explains the first tenet by which she abides. The other two — family and friends — have been firmly in place since her earliest days of community service. Her parents, Imad and Nazife, advocated community involvement from the time Amrou was a young girl. Mother Nazife introduced Amrou to the MultiFaith Council of Northwest Ohio’s Habitat for Humanity projects when her daughter was just a teen.
While swinging hammers and paintbrushes side by side with young people of various religious faiths, Amrou developed beliefs in respect, tolerance and dedication to community.
“Her manner was outstanding,” said Judy Trautman, co-chair of the MultiFaith Council. “She radiated enthusiasm, warmth and openness while representing her faith with sincere authenticity. During a house dedication two years ago, she provided the transliteration of the Imam’s prayer. Her articulate sincerity made a deep impression on the crowd.”
Amrou adheres to the Muslim faith, but friends say she understands that wearing the traditional headdress can lead to unjustified impressions. Her mission, said Sarah Alfaham, a fellow UT student, is to promote her beliefs in a manner that encourages pride and inclusion.
“She’s of the mindset that ‘I’m wearing this scarf, but I’m going to do whatever I need to as a way to help the world around me,’” Alfaham said. “She goes a little overboard to make sure she is active in dispelling stereotypes of Muslim women by being involved in all types of organizations.”
Amrou, a sophomore carrying a double major in economics and law and social thought, seeks to inspire younger generations to be actively involved in society.
“The main thing is to give youth an opportunity to help youth,” she said. “So many organizations are run by adults who kids sometimes don’t feel are relatable. Hopefully, kids come to us with a different mindset, as peers.”
Amrou is active within two local mosques, the Islamic Center for Greater Toledo and the Masjid Saad Foundation. She organizes numerous youth empowerment, sports and multifaith events. Those who know her applaud her enthusiasm and willingness to recruit others into the youth movement, regardless of their culture or religion.
“The MultiFaith Council has been a great way for us to focus on religion without focusing on religion,” she said with a grin. “We come together from different religions for a greater, spiritual purpose.”
Amrou helped create an organization called Protect Each Abused Child Everywhere (PEACE) as a student at Sylvania Southview High School. Her outreach extends to events promoting peace and justice in the Middle East, as well.
She’ll combine her interests during an internship with the Washington Center Program in Washington, D.C., this summer, working in tandem with several organizations on foreign policy initiatives.
Once she returns to Toledo, she’ll continue to be knee-deep in activities with her churches and student organizations at UT, while reaching for the hammer during an annual Habitat for Humanity project.
“Volunteering is an integral part of who I am,” Amrou explained. “I believe that you not only enrich your own soul, but you enrich the souls of others through community service.”