It was a great day—if a bit windy—at the Sound at Cypress Waters. 2024 was the first year the festival was held outdoors, and a large volunteer team was ready and able to make sure our setup was as beautiful as the venue.

The amphitheater at the Sound at Cypress Waters where the Youth Festival was held
Volunteers work to hang artwork at the Dallas Youth Festival

This year’s art and spoken word competitions were open nationwide, and we received entries from 7 states. The visual art and spoken word pieces were on view in the waterfront amphitheater, and guests could scan QR codes to listen to the artists describe their artwork and to hear the spoken word entries.

Youth Ambassador Alumni view the art entries at the Youth Festival 2024
Youth present their innovation to guests at the Youth Festival

The innovation competition teams were ready in person to present their projects to our judges and interested visitors. Using human-centered design (HCD) approaches similar to those practiced by AKF staff around the world, these students developed proposals that included creating new materials for medical implants, strengthening menstrual hygiene access, and building water-cleaning robots, just to name a few.

To quote one of our judges:

“I loved being at the AKF Youth Festival on Saturday. Please let everyone know what an impressive event and how much I enjoyed it.”

– Molly Weinburgh, PhD, Piper Professor & Andrews Chair of Mathematics & Science Education, Texas Christian University

Youth Ambassadors also designed craft projects for guests to try. Guests were invited to decorate a candle for this year’s theme, “Improving Quality of Life: Ignite yOUR Flame,” and to paint a rock and create origami fish inspired by a rock garden and aquarium project the Ambassadors developed in a local underserved school. AKF USA staff and Youth Ambassador Alums were also on hand to share more information about the Aga Khan Foundation’s work.

If you couldn’t make it in person, check out this reel created by the Youth Ambassador team. It features music from the Greenhill High School Jazz Combo band, who set the mood of the event with their wonderful performance.

Watch it on Facebook, LinkedIn, X, or the Youth Ambassadors Instagram.

Finally, the event culminated in an awards ceremony with remarks from Isbaah Pirwani and Aahil Sukhyani, 2024 Youth Ambassador co-presidents, Shamsah Virani, Director of Resource Development and Strategic Communications, and a keynote speech from Youth Ambassador Alumnus, Sumair Bhimani. Aliza Tharani performed her beautiful Spoken Word piece. Farida Khemani, a National Committee Member, and Hameeda Somani, the Central Regional Chair, were on hand to present the awards.

Our winners were:

Visual Art

Izma Aziz - Blooming with Knowledge

First Prize

Izma Aziz
Blooming with Knowledge
Clear Brook High School
Friendswood, TX

Soham Punjani - Sakina (سكينة)

Second Prize

Soham Punjani
Sakina (سكينة – tranquility)
McCallie School
Chatanooga, TN

Zara Virani - Sprouting Healthier Life

Third Prize

Zara Virani
Sprouting Healthier Life
Wheeler High School
Marietta, GA

Spoken Word

First Prize

Adway Kulkarni
A Backwards Glance At A Brighter Future
Texas Academy of Math & Science
Denton, TX

Second Prize

Aliza Tharani
Flames of the Soul
Colleyville Heritage High School
Colleyville, TX

Third Prize

Sahad Valiani
Enhancing Life’s Canvas: Prioritizing Health, Time, Family, and Mind
Uplift North Hills Preparatory
Irving, TX


First Prize

Yugarya Goyal and Sahad Valiani
Next Generation of Medical Implants
Texas Academy of Math & Science, Denton, TX
Uplift North Hills Preparatory, Irving TX

Second Prize

Danya Risam-Chandi and Suhani Singh
The Girls’ Wellness Initiative
The Hockaday School
Dallas, TX

The Youth Ambassadors program is building AKF USA’s future by engaging these talented youth with the work of the Aga Khan Foundation. This next generation of leaders is essential to the Aga Khan Foundation’s global mission: Building a Future Where We All Thrive Together.

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