During December 22-29, 2012, the Illuminated Cities Project launched its pilot project. Our team was comprised of one suburban fellow (Alina Raza), one urban fellow (Yaqueline Rodriguez), a youth documentarian (Shaiz Raza), an adult ally (Xian Barrett), and the project director (Zehra Imam).

Learn More About The Fellows In This Video!

Prior to traveling to Mexico our team engaged in conversations about cultural sensitivity and culture shock in the American and global contexts. Fellows did reflections and tele-conferenced with one another about their lives and experiences with education. Fellows were required to identify a community mentor and organization as well as create an Action Plan for their communities that they would begin implementing upon their return to the United States.

What We Did in Mexico City:

We had workshops on:
– The world as it is and the world as it should be
-­ Action Plans for our fellows
– Sustainability for self and community
– Speaker-Lister series to get to know one another and others in the Mexican context


We met with faith communities to learn about culture, interfaith exchange of ideas, and fellowship:

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-­ In the Mexican Christian community, we went to church for Christmas mass and had dinner with a family.

– In the Muslim community, we observed/participated in Friday prayers, and met with local community members for lunch.

We also met with social entrepreneurs in the Mexican context so that our youth could gain an understanding of how they could implement their projects through individuals such as Jorge Olmos and organizations such as Espirit du Campeon. We discovered how artists are using creative arts as a medium for social change through organizations such as Danceability-Mexico. We worked with our team on creating and building partnerships in the Mexican context as well as with one another to build a sustainable network of support upon return from the program.

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Evaluation Plan:

Youth and mentors filled out post-­departure surveys and evaluated their experiences.

Youth said they returned with a better understanding of need in global communities, including how that need is addressed, and said that they would use their experience to implement an Action Plan of growth and development for their home cities.


“I learned that money is not everything. You don’t have to be rich to give back. I learned community is family. Faith is having hope, and it does not necessarily have to be for those who are “weak”. That’s what I learned.”
Yaqueline Rodriguez, Chicago fellow

“The Mexico trip really opened me up and I was able to talk about things I had held in. While I was there, people were extremely nice and it made my attitude more open and happy. I met Jakie and Mr. Barrett and they were nice people… what I got out of the trip was that it made me believe that project ideas can be effective and show how other countries work in comparison to America and how everything that is so readily available for us might not be in some other countries.”
Shais Raza, Detroit fellow

“The trip turned out to be an amazing experience. I met two [new] awesome individuals, Xian Barret and Jakie Rodrigeuz that will hopefully continue to be a large part of my journey. I also became acquainted with amazing social entrepreneurs creating awesome programs with their communities for their communities. Though I didn’t know the language or the customs and didn’t particularly enjoy the food, I felt a connection with these people. They faced the same struggles we did with ourselves and within our communities. And much like we are trying to do, they are actively and successfully creating that change. It was a beautiful thing to experience. The world seems like a much smaller place after coming back from Mexico. Humans are the same across the globe.”
Alina Raza, Detroit fellow

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© 2015 by Illuminated Cities Project