The Islamic Leadership Institute of America held Race 2 College 2012 at Centennial Park on October 27th, 2012, in Howard County, Maryland.
The goal of the race was to raise $20,000 to fund scholarships for third and fourth year college students in the Spring semester. The race brought close to $5000 in pledges and donations. The event was the first Race 2 College annual race and was sponsored by over a dozen organizations and programs including Halal Yeah!, Youth Center, Mafiq Foundation, The Muslim Link, MCC Senior Group, Royal Sedan, Home of the Heart, Maryum Islamic Center, Dar at Taqwa, I Can Lead, and Price Co. Floor and Carpets. Sponsors ranged from multi-million dollar national corporations such as Enterprise Community Investment to small youth groups; the race also brought non-Muslim houses of worship to support the cause under the organization of ILIA.
Howard County’s Executive Ken Ulman issued a proclamation recognizing October 27,2012, as Race 2 College Day. This recognized the efforts and outreach of the Muslim community in the Greater Baltimore-Washington region. Under the leadership of Br. Abdelqadir Sennaar, Race 2 College transformed from an idea to a real event with impact. According to organizers, the race brought runners from as far north as Towson and from as far south as Southern Prince George's County.
Participants were not required to run the entire approximately two mile course; many jogged or walked the course.
Applications are now open until December 31, 2012 for undergraduate scholarships. "The scholarship is open for all students in the 48 states, junior or seniors who meet the requirement. They will need to submit two essays. One essay is on why is this scholarship important to the community and the Ummah and the second will address higher education in developing local communities. We encourage everyone to apply, we have a very experienced committee," says Br. Ayman Nassar, ILIA's founder. Nassar described the event as "invigorating and inspiring”.
“At a time when Muslims are stereotyped in the media and many of our youth feel intimated at school, we find various organizations and partners from the Muslim and non-Muslim community jumping on the bandwagon and pitching in, supporting a cause led, managed and organized by Muslims. It illustrates that many in our country value our contributions and view us as partners in the development of this great nation,” he told the Muslim Link.
"Alhamdulillah, it was a good experience, it was more than a race; it was an opportunity for fathers to bond with children, adults to exercise and think about changing our lifestyles. As a community, we tend to be inactive, it is not very popular to workout. There were several secondary objectives for this event: outreach, dawah opportunities, family time." ILIA expects to host this event every year in October in Howard County, and in spring in Baltimore City.
Next year's planning includes involving public and private schools in the race. "What was most striking was during the race we would come across our yard signs and find non-Muslims looking at them, asking what is this? It was great outreach; it shows people that Muslims in this region play an active role in the betterment of people's lives. It is hard for a student to get an education. They come out with enormous debt. At ILIA we counsel many who cannot get a good job after graduating with loans or could not continue college and had to drop out of school. Muslims are not immune to this problem. The quality of graduates coming out has deteriorated especially in STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics), its a national problem and we as Muslims are required to be part of this solution. This is something that all Muslims should be participating in. Looking out for the next generation looking at the root cause at the problems in our communities," says Nasser.
Participants started gathering at the race registration table around 7:30 am. The race concluded at 9:30 am. Runners ranged in age from 10 year old Maryum – who won 10th place -- to brothers in their forties. First place was won by a Br. Al from Towson. Br. Wail from Olney took second place and in third place was Br. Jamal from Elkridge. Br. Jamal also represented Aqaba Karate, one of the Race 2 College sponsors and a project of Dar us Salaam. The race was a little over 2.5 miles along the edge of scenic Centennial Lake in Howard County, Maryland, home of ILIA's head offices and training facility.
"We were expecting more than 60 runners, we ended up with 20 runners. A lot of work went into planning the race, working with the police department, Park & recreation department, the college. The original plan was to run from the ILIA office to the college, but we came across a major highway, so we changed the route," says Nasser, giving us a behind the scene look at planning the event.
To apply for unto a $1000 scholarship per semester visit http://www.race2college.org/apply-for-scholarship/