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Aden Haji: An Inside Perspective

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In May 2019, Aden received the Herb Blumenthal Award for Community Activism from the City of Burlington in recognition of his leadership, tenacity, and dedication to improving Burlington’s neighborhoods.

Spectrum’s Multicultural Youth Program (MYP) was launched in 2015 to support youth who are from immigrant families or self-identify as multicultural.

Aden Haji and his family moved here in 2003 when Aden was 6 years old. They were the first Somali Bantu refugees to resettle in Vermont.

“Living in Burlington has made me realize the importance of mentorship for youth like myself. Getting involved in the community was a challenge when we moved here,” Aden says.

“So when I got older, I started volunteering at local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club to support kids who were going through what I went through.”

Aden uses this experience to help youth from multicultural families overcome any challenges they may be facing. This could include getting extra help with schoolwork, applying to college, finding access to translation services, or navigating life in the United States. Aden says,

“It is easy to get very focused within your family system. My family didn’t always know what was available for me. It is hard to go outside of your own comfort zone, especially when you don’t have someone to guide you. I wanted to be that guide.”

“I’ve been trying to do this work for a long time, but through Spectrum, we have both the mission and the team to make an impact. I’m helping families and youth during difficult times. I’m able to offer solutions that will get results.”

MYP staff members at the 3-on-3 March Madness Basketball Tournament organized by Aden for Burlington-area teens.

MYP is unique in that it allows staff to take their first-hand observations of what youth from diverse families in the Burlington community need and then build programs to address those needs.

MYP’s five staff members collectively speak nine languages and come from the communities that MYP serves. The program is entirely funded through the generosity of our donors.

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