Fay Beydoun is executive director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, chief operating officer for Tejara, and was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to serve as chairwoman of the East Michigan District Export Council.

I’m in my early 50s. Growing up in America, as a teenager, we went to the mosque every Sunday. But there wasn’t as strong of an Islamic community as there is now for these kids here in the United States. It wasn’t as strong. It wasn’t as evident as it is now.

I wish that it was but it wasn’t. And being a teenager, one of the things I found myself doing a lot was being very quiet. I was not voicing my opinion one way or another until I could figure out the group that I was in—what were they and where did they stand on this? Was I going to be accepted or not? As I got older and I became more confident, that’s when I started being more vocal.

For these kids, I think it’s easier for them to be more involved in their religion—for them not to be as afraid of it. For them not to feel like they have to be assimilated into mainstream America to be accepted. I want to tell them that it’s okay for them to be who they are. You have to accept who you are—accept your culture, accept your religion as part of your past and as part of who you are now—for you to move forward successfully to the future.