Twin Points of Light

Rishi sisters reflect the lessons they received at an early age

Youth Advisory Board has served as platform for diverse range of volunteer efforts
By Dan Aznoff | Dec 21, 2018
Courtesy of: The Rishi Family Twin sisters Kaamna and Akaanksha Rishi share a passion for their community and a love for each other. Both are committed to serving their hometown, ustilizing their own their individual talents. Kaamna is the outgoing sister who is involved in student government at Jackson High School and civic affairs in Mill Creek, while Akaanksha enjoys mentoring elementary school students with art projects. Both belong to the city’s Youth Advisory Board.

Sisters Kaamna and Akaanksha Rishi are more than twins. They are best friends who have chosen completely separate paths on the road they hope will to improve the lives of diverse groups in their own community.

The seniors at Jackson High School have taken steps to differentiate themselves in the way they look, how they dress and how they impact the people they deal with in the community and in City Hall.

But when all is said and done, the sisters share a commitment to enrich the lives of the people in Mill Creek.

Both teens have spent four years as integral contributors to the mission of the Mill Creek Youth Advisory Board, which they have affectionately dubbed “McYAB.”

Kaamna, the one with shorter hair and a heartwarming smile, has utilized her involvement with the city-sponsored advisory board as a springboard for her involvement in civic affairs and student government at Jackson. This year she has focused her attention on the city-sponsored youth group where she serves as co-chair.

Akaanksha invokes smiles from everybody she encounters with her sparkling eyes and her ability to relate with people of all ages. She has turned her creative passion for make-up to coordinate the McYAB social calendar in addition to her duties as WE coordinator where she organizes action on everything from local issues to global initiatives.

Strong bonds
The Rishi sisters agreed they were motivated by the actions of their parents to volunteer time in their community. They also agreed that they have been able to establish strong bonds with the board members they interact with at school on a daily basis. Both are enrolled in the Running Start program which allows them to earn college credit while finishing their high school coursework.

“The Mill Creek Advisory Board has given us the opportunity to work with other teens who want to improve our community through the simple act of volunteering,” Kaamna explained. “There are great lessons to be learned from books, but there is nothing better than the opportunity to put my passions into action.”

One of the best examples she could think of was the Parents Night Out hosted by  McYAB  every month when members offer to watch a room filled with busy young people so their parents can enjoy a night alone with the burden of having to arrange for a babysitter.

“It may not be the most glamorous activity we stage as a board,” Kaamna said with a smile.  “But it fulfills a real need for parents who just need an opportunity to go out to a movie or just have dinner together.”

The youth board has provided the Rishi sisters with the chance to prepare, organize and take a lead in city events. The McYAB calendar this year has included monitoring the Run with a Heart, collecting prize donations for the Teen Flashlight Egg Hunt or staffing a booth at Mill Creek Festival.

The youth council has also allowed Kaamna to expand the leadership skills she will need in pursuit of a degree in computer science or a career in government. She admitted they have been able to get through middle school and high school without either of them being labeled with a nickname.

She began her pursuit in politics as class president, and has served in the vital role of Executive Events Coordinator during her junior year, where she managed food drives that benefitted the Mill Creek Food Bank.

 

The activist half of the Rishi helped her class stage a protest march in front of the high school in March on the one-month anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

 

Her sister is more hands-on. Akaanksha enjoys the experience of dealing with third and fifth graders who are too shy to become involved in the classroom.

She mentions the relationship she established with one young boy she helped to open up about issues he was dealing with at home while they worked together on an art project.

“The teachers told me that the boy was obviously sad and dealing with some issues while I was away for a few weeks,” she recalled. “It was sorry that he had did not trust another adult enough to confide in them. But he came right over and shared his emotions the first time we saw each other again.”

Operation Gratitude
Akaanksha also spent hours working with the fifth-grade leadership team at Mill Creek Elementary School for the McYAB global WE Day initiative with Operation Gratitude to collect 2,445 donations that were shipped to soldiers posted overseas.

She believes the ability to nourish interactive relationships has developed from her work with the board will be an important skill in her ambition to become a nurse.

Kristen Rasmussen has served as advisor to the youth group since she assumed the role of Community Engagement Coordinator for the city 10 years ago. She said the experience has been as rewarding for her as it has been for the teens.

“It is wonderful to see kids who are quiet and reluctant to get involved who discover the pride they can achieve when they take leadership roles in McYAB,” Rasmussen told The Beacon. “We have an extensive application process that involves interviews and two letters of recommendation so the kids understand the time commitment they will be taking on as members of the board.

“We want to empower our members.”

The coordinator said she is thrilled when members of McYab ask her to provide letters of recommendation for their own college application.

The Youth Advisory Council currently has between 30 and 40 members, most from Jackson High School. Applications for new members are accepted every fall.

“Many of these kids are involved in ASB activities and the Honor Society,” said Rasmussen. “The youth board gives them the chance to volunteer with something outside of school and work together toward the common good.”

Kaamna summed up the sisters’ participation in the Youth Board when she described their actions as, “The role we can play to contribute to creating a more welcoming community that enriches the lives of every resident of Mill Creek.”

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