Mariam Al-Hamdany has been a member of Portland Community Squash (PCS) since it opened in January 2017. PCS is a diverse community, with students who come from 30 countries. The nonprofit pairs squash and other wellness activities with academics and includes a program called Rally Portland that supports students from middle school to college graduation and beyond.  A grant from MaineCF's Cumberland County Fund supported the launch of Rally Portland. Photo Thalassa Raasch/MaineCF

Tell us about yourself and your life.

I’m 13 years old and I live in Portland. I go to Lyman Moore Middle School and I’m a seventh-grader. My favorite subjects are science and math. My parents moved to Portland from Iraq about 20 years ago. I have two younger brothers and one older sister.

What did you think when you first went to Portland Community Squash? Did you know much about squash?

No, I didn’t know that much about squash – I thought I was crazy because I didn’t know any other students or anyone there. I was nervous and very embarrassed because I didn’t know how to play squash.

Now you’re part of Rally Portland at PCS. What does that mean for you?

It means everything to me. It’s a college pathway program. I also do yoga and academics. We travel – we’ve been to Boston, to go to the Boston Aquarium. We’ve been to Color Me Mine, which is a pottery studio, and went rock climbing. We’ve been to Bates College, Bowdoin, Harvard, Wellesley, and a few more.

You’ve committed to be a part of Rally Portland for the next seven years! What is it about PCS that keeps you coming back?

The staff keeps me coming back and my friends from different schools who have different backgrounds. I’ve met friends who have been traveling all their life. The staff is inspirational. They’re kind.

If you could tell other people why they should join PCS or volunteer, what would you tell them?

Once you start it’s going to be addictive and it’s going to be like your second home. I’ve learned that I’m more confident and that I’m more of a leader – and the importance of teamwork.

What’s it like having your younger brother also in Rally Portland?

I know we get into fights, but it’s actually pretty awesome because I get to spend more time with my brother and get closer.

What would you like to be doing 10 years from now?

Graduate from high school, then college (either Bates College or the University of Utah), and become a professional squash player – the first hijabi squash player from Maine – and be a doctor.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Confident. Kind. Smart.