[Image shows a headshot of Alae Lahbal from the shoulders up smiling in a striped button-up blouse and long hair tied back. Background shows a blurred view of the ocean and clear blue sky.]
I-CREATE YOUTH is expanding to promote disability advocacy and social justice in all domains of life. We've always been interested in exploring youth involvement in STEM, and we were fortunate to have interviewed the amazing Alae Labhal on her nonprofit work, mental health activism, and experience in the field of technology. Reach out to Alae here, and learn more about I-CREATE YOUTH at icreateyouth.wixsite.com/site.
ICY: First thing's first, tell us about yourself—your background, hobbies, interests, and anything else you’d want others to know.
AL: Hello, I am thrilled to take this interview and so fascinated by the work you do!
I am Alae Labhal, 17 years old from Morocco. I have a big passion for math, physics and technology so I was chosen to be among 4 girls in my country to participate in the fully funded 2020 Techgirls international exchange program. I was also chosen to participate, along with 200 girls from 12 different countries, in MERGE (MENA-USA Empowering Resilient Girls Exchange). I am so passionate about public speaking so I was a finalist in the national public speaking competition. I was nominated as the second best short story writer in a local writing competition. I also Co-founded Tech4All Academy and founded Mental Wellness Community.
I mostly spend my time drawing and learning programing; plus, I aim to major in Software engineering.
ICY: What inspired you to become the Co-Founder of Tech4All Academy?
AL: I first met Amina (Founder) in the Techgirls 2021 program, she suggested that we create a project that will offer free coding courses.
There we came up with Tech4All Academy in which our beginner level participants learn how to code by matching them with experienced volunteer tutors, get introduced to the tech field and its diverse and unique paths, build their professional network and most importantly get inspired to serve people with technology and use it for good.
What inspired me to be the co-founder of Tech4All Academy is firstly my passion for tech and secondly my urge to help and assist youth in finding their personal fulfillment. I believe that everyone has the right to access information, and benefit from opportunities equally and this is what our statistics show, over 75% of our students so far are females from underserved countries, which encourages us even more to close the gender gap in STEM.
ICY: What is Tech4All's mission and how have you been working towards that goal?
AL: Our mission is to make technology accessible for everyone no matter who they are, what really matters to us is their passion in technology and their commitment to the program. We want to help youth (especially minorities) to step into the tech field, build soft skills like communication and networking and inspire them to engage in their communities.
ICY: In addition to your involvement in technology, you’re also the Founder of the Mental Wellness Community. How has your experience been as an advocate for mental health?
AL: I recently founded Mental Wellness community, a website in which we share awareness about mental health, help with personal growth and provide our visitors with the latest youth opportunities.
My participation in the MERGE program really inspired me to launch this initiative and to start advocating about the importance of mental wellbeing in our lives. Since the beginning, I had so much support and encouragement from my network, which made me start hiring a team of volunteer bloggers, graphic designers for our Instagram page and more. I love it when people come to me and give me their feedback about the organization and its impact which encourages me to further my knowledge in the field and making Mental Wellness a platform for everyone to write and impact others.
ICY: I’ve been so inspired by your experience as a woman in STEM coming from Morocco! Do you have any advice to give to youth on taking a similar path in technology?
AL: I can say, I am not a specialist or a professional programmer or engineer, I am a young student who is passionate about STEM fields and has a big ambition to help people. My advice on taking this path is to believe in your uniqueness and your abilities, the world of STEM is full of talented/ skilled individuals, you have to stand out! What makes you different from anyone else? How do you want to use these technical skills, what is your aim from pursuing a STEM related degree?
Not forgetting that the tech field is all about networking, so surround yourself with diverse people, learn from them, get out of your comfort zone, participate in competitions/ workshops, volunteer in a NGO, ask for mentorship... Just keep growing at least 1% each week and stay curious!