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USM Student Chosen To Be One Of Portland’s ‘Global Shapers’


Portland―First-year USM student Muna Adan details her pursuits the way a hungry person might write a shopping list.

“I am really passionate about poetry, religion, race, gender. That kind of stuff,” said Muna Adan, who just turned 19. Add sexual orientation and immigration policy, economics, education and entrepreneurship.

You start to get the idea.

As a student at a Deering High School, Muna Adan worked on a project to fight hunger in Portland’s public schools. Before graduation, she turned a poem into a TEDxDirigo presentation describing her frustrations as a young, black Muslim woman.

And this year, she hopes to change the world.

Muna Adan was selected to be among 20 people under 30 to launch Maine’s first Global Shapers’ Hub in Portland. With support from the World Economic Forum, the group is currently working to decide upon a hub project. Other hubs have built solar-powered community gardens, erected libraries, taught people about their finances and created WiFi hotspots in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“I can’t really say that there’s one thing we really want to focus on,” Muna Adan said. “Not yet.”

Portland’s Global Shapers include brokers and scientists, pastors and paralegals. Muna Adan is the only student.

Originally from Ethiopia, she immigrated to America when she was a young girl. After a short time in Nashville, her family settled in Portland.

She has had her discouraging moments, detailed in the TEDxDirigo piece titled “Forgive Me.”

“Forgive me for having the audacity to believe that I was a valuable asset to my community,” she said. “Being a black, Muslim woman was never a walk in the park, never knowing if someone was staring at me because I covered my hair or my skin was dark.”

To Muna Adan, the discouraging times are outweighed by optimism, something she learned on the hunger project.

“It taught me that I can make a difference if I set out to do it,” she said.

It’s the basis of social entrepreneurship, applying an innovative idea to improve a community.

“My dream would be to travel the world giving motivational speeches,” Adan said. “Inspiring people.”

She decided to attend USM because she could stay close to her family.

“There was a part of me that didn’t know if I wanted to leave Maine after I graduated, just because I did not think I was going to get the opportunities that I would get in New York or something,” she said. “But now I feel like we’re bringing that here.”

She enrolled in USM as a communication major.

“The things I want to focus on are helping people blogging, writing, poetry, writing about social injustices and putting my voice out there,” she said. “If I can find a way to do that through photography or videos, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

USM and Portland will sharpen her skills, she said.

“The Portland campus and the whole community is really diverse,” she said. “I feel like there are people from so many parts of the world and various types of backgrounds and they are here to stay. And they are here to help.”

She was also heartened by USM President Glenn Cummings’ support this fall for improving race issues on campus.

“He basically said, ‘I am here to help if you guys are willing to come forward and tell me what is going on,'” she said. “That really made me feel so much better because someone who is in power wants to help us.”

Muna Adan’s greatest strength comes from within herself and her friends, she said.

“I feel like now, I’m more comfortable with myself as a person,” she said. “I am strong in my faith, and there are people who back me up. I have a community who is by my side.”