Where Passion meets Purpose: Meet Shariff Abukari
“I remember the first time I went to Camp Mariah. Picture a 10-year-old boy who had never spent time in the wilderness before and there I was getting off a bus at camp. It was the first time I was on my own and it made me feel very grown up,” Fresh Air alum, Shariff Abukari, shared.
Shariff’s Fresh Air story began in 2010 when his parents drove from Jamaica, Queens to Brooklyn to sign him up for Fresh Air summer programs – not realizing that this day would impact him forever.
Shariff’s experiences at Camp Mariah showed him a perspective different from his experience living in Queens – he met campers from all five boroughs and even counselors from different countries who helped him achieve many of his “firsts.” He learned how to swim, went on hikes, sang around the campfire and created lasting memories.
“My parents wanted me to learn about the world around me and they really wanted me to attend camp to experience life in the outdoors,” said Shariff.
Camp Mariah, is part of the Career Awareness Program (CAP), a year-round program dedicated to providing Fresh Air children with educational and career exploration opportunities. Through CAP, Shariff attended job shadowings, career fairs and participated in a tutoring program.
At 11-years-old, Shariff was paired with his volunteer tutor Noah Mencia, a senior investment analyst, who introduced him to the business world. Shariff also participated in many job shadowings, including one with Morgan Stanley, where he discovered his passion for finance.
Through his Fresh Air experiences, Shariff learned about the educational path he needed to follow to achieve his career goals. Shariff graduated from Pace University with a B.B.A in finance and was the first member of his family to do so.
Now almost 10 years after his first trip to camp, Shariff was excited to give back to an organization that means so much to him and connect with teens in the Fresh Air community. This spring, Shariff was a guest speaker at The Fresh Air Fund’s Spring Benefit where he shared his Fresh Air journey. His story is one of many that inspire our donors and partners to support our programs.
During summer 2022, Shariff volunteered to be a guest speaker at The Fund’s Summer Teen Academy Job Readiness Training Program. He led a session for teens ages 13 to 15 on financial planning and the effective tools necessary to set up teens for success in their finances. Shariff also provided insight on his educational journey and how teens can pursue this career field in the future.
“Without Fresh Air, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Shariff states. “My passion for my career wasn’t the only thing I gained from my time at Fresh Air. I also learned life lessons that I found to be vital later in life.”
Shariff’s story is one of many that demonstrate the impact Fresh Air programs have. Stay connected with The Fresh Air Fund by following us on Instagram: @theFreshAirFund, Twitter: @FreshAirFund and Facebook: @FreshAirFund!