South Barrington teen teaches art to help seniors, refugees

When Hafsah Khan started painting four years ago, it served as an outlet for her emotions.

“It's therapeutic ... it definitely is a coping mechanism,” said Hafsah, 16, of South Barrington.

Now, the Barrington High School sophomore teaches art classes to her peers and older adults at Sunrise Senior Living in Barrington, as part of the school's Art in Action club, which she cofounded. She also started a nonprofit, All for Art, to teach art to underserved communities.

Hafsah and other Art in Action club members visit the senior assisted living facility once or twice a month. Now that the club is established with about 20 members, Hafsa plans to expand classes to other senior centers and reach out in the coming months to places serving children with disabilities.

“I do want to work on trying to help establish more chapters in other schools, as well,” Hafsah said.

Since last summer, Hafsah also has been working through her nonprofit with asylum-seekers at Bethany House of Hospitality in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood and the ICNA Relief refugee center in Glendale Heights.

“I want to give other people who don't have access to art that outlet because I have seen what a positive effect it has had on my life,” she said. “Art is a luxury. I want to give everyone that opportunity because I think it has some amazing benefits.”

Hafsah also does video art tutorials, art lesson plans and educational art history blog posts through her website,

Celebrating heritage

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas will mark Arab American Heritage Month today by recognizing more than 30 business, civic, political and religious leaders from the Chicago-area Arab community with Certificates of Excellence.

Pappas also will unveil her office's new Arab-language outreach video showing taxpayers how to see if they are due a property tax refund for previous overpayments or missed exemptions.

The celebration will take place at 3 p.m. at the Cook County treasurer's office, Room 112, 118 N. Clark St., Chicago.

“Arab Americans have advanced our nation in diplomacy, science, technology, cuisine and the arts,” Pappas said. “They've been at the forefront of the fight for civil rights and social justice. It's important that the Arab American community is seen and celebrated.”

Festival of Lights

Elmhurst University will hold its first Festival of Lights, an interfaith candlelight gathering featuring music, song and text from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions today.

The program is in the tradition of the university's popular Festival of Lessons and Carols.

Music and readings will be provided by Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Elmhurst and Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard, with support from local Muslim and Christian communities and congregations.

The Festival of Lights will begin at 7 p.m. in Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel, 190 Prospect Ave., Elmhurst. Admission is free and open to the public. Visit

Community action

Members of the greater Chicago-area Muslim American and Asian American communities are invited to join two political action rally days in Springfield this month to raise important issues with state legislators and build community power with civic and faith partners.

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago's annual Illinois Muslim Action Day is Wednesday at the State Capitol. To sign up, visit

Advancing Justice Chicago and the Pan-Asian Voter Empowerment Coalition will host their 10th Asian American Action Day on May 9. The groups are advocating for legislation such as the Language Equity and Access, Faith Behind Bars, Faith By Plate, Driver's Licenses for All, Prevent Unfair Medical Debt, and Health Care Cultural Competency acts.

Sign up at 1FAIpQLSceVVOmqFwuO _0_5bF1ND-1HVtj6mNczjTLNos4dzGl3MWu1A/viewform.

Prayer walk

Aurora's 2023 prayer walk across the city will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday.

The walk celebrates National Day of Prayer. It is open to the public. It steps off from the southwest corner of Orchard Road and West Galena Boulevard and ending at McCoy Drive and Route 59.

Anthony Ramos, Elgin Community College's executive director of equity, diversity and inclusion, center, receives the 2023 Inclusive Excellence Award from National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education President Paulette Granberry Russell and interim Awards Chair James Felton III. Courtesy of Tim Trumble for NADOHE

Diversity award

Elgin Community College recently received the 2023 Inclusive Excellence Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.

ECC won the Institutional Excellence Award for a two-year institution demonstrating measurable progress in promoting and sustaining innovative diversity efforts within the campus community. These efforts may involve institutional leadership, curricular reform, institutional transformation, professional development, assessment policies and practices, accountability measures and outreach efforts.

“From reducing student loan balances to preparing the next generation of teachers for our communities and more, ECC has made countless efforts to improve students' outcomes while working to close gaps in success metrics for our minoritized and underserved populations,” said Anthony Ramos, ECC's executive director of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Interfaith dialogue

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi's 8th Congressional District office will host an interfaith breakfast and round-table discussion Thursday about religious discrimination in the U.S.

The event will run 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at 1701 Woodfield Road, Suite 312, Schaumburg. It is open to the public.

The round-table discussion will include audience participation and focus on religious discrimination from a political perspective and how community-level work can help faith communities feel safer.

A light breakfast will be provided accommodating various religious dietary restrictions. To reserve a spot, visit

DEI meeting in Geneva

Geneva's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force will host a virtual inclusive language session from 11 a.m. to noon May 11.

Residents and community stakeholders are invited to participate in the online session, which will focus on promoting healthy conversations.

Join the Zoom session at

A recording will be available later on the city's YouTube channel.

Created in 2021, the task force developed a mission statement, identifying 13 key areas of focus: ADA accessibility, city practices, community partnerships, community policing, economic empowerment, gender/sexual orientation, health care, housing, language access, public engagement, race & ethnicity, senior citizens and youth.

The task force will conduct other public engagement events in the coming months and develop a community survey. Then it will recommend an action plan that will be presented to the city council.

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