“To be honest, the best people I’ve met are at the library.”
Sitting down with Irfan, you can’t help but smile as he bursts with enthusiasm about soccer, his favorite films, and cooking Kabuli Pulao. Ask about his story, and this bright-eyed teen will passionately share each chapter.
After attending his early school years in Pakistan, Irfan moved to Afghanistan and noticed the quality of his education decline. He wondered why girls weren’t at his new school. And why were his classmates so far behind? These questions fueled action. At 14 years old, he established a free tutoring center for girls and boys.
But in 2021, everything suddenly took a 180-degree turn when Afghanistan was evacuated. He was forced to abandon the work he felt called to do. After a number of harrowing months, Irfan and his family settled here in Minnesota.
They were the first people I met, and they had a huge impact on me.
He explains the uncertainty and alienation that he felt after arriving in Minneapolis: “The first days here were hard. I got lost and no one was helping me to find my home. Everyone was just passing by. For a new person, you think, ‘Do they hate me? What is going on over here?’” This was a shock to Irfan, who never had trouble connecting with others before.
But Irfan’s loneliness transformed to belonging when he walked into Franklin Library. He shares, “When I came to the library, everyone was social. I especially connected to two or three brilliant people. They were the first people I met, and they had a huge impact on me.”
If you like your work, and someone else appreciates it, then it’s the best job ever.
After getting to know Irfan, librarians encouraged him to apply to the Teen Tech Squad. No stranger to working with youth, he landed this part-time role as a member of the library’s staff. Alongside new friends, he designed and led STEM activities, from slime making to metal molding. He lights up at the memory of completing an escape room with the community he built at work.
For the first time, he collaborated with people of many religions and cultural backgrounds. And most importantly, he enjoyed this chapter of his life, saying, “If you like your work, and someone else appreciates it, then it’s the best job ever.”
Irfan just completed his employment at the library and is now pursuing an exciting academic future. Having earned a prestigious scholarship, he dreams of paying it forward and helping others pursue their educational dreams. Reflecting on his experience, he shares, “To be honest, the best people I’ve met are at the library.”