Most high school girls could never muster the courage to chop off their hair for a good cause.
That certainly wasn’t the case for Ida Abdalkhani. As a high school senior she decided to donate her hair to charity for cancer patients. After one of her teachers lost her own hair to cancer, Abdalkhani saw donating her hair as an opportunity to help others.
“It was a test for myself. I wondered, ‘Is my self-confidence based on my personality, my abilities or a combination of the two?’ ” Abdalkhani said.
Obviously, her self-confidence transcended her insecurities. Soon after, several of her peers decided to do the same. Abdalkhani sparked a trend by helping others in anyway possible, even if it meant losing 13 inches of her hair.
“I looked like a mushroom,” Abdalkhani said.
Mahshi Abdalkhani, Abdalkhani’s mother, remembers her daughter cutting her hair as “unforgettable.”
“Usually girls at that age are very concerned about their looks and appearances, but Ida proved that caring for other people is far more important to her than her appearance,” she said.
Donating her hair to charity is one of several unforgettable experiences proving Abdalkhani’s compassionate desire to help others. Abdalkhani chose to test her own self-esteem by helping a complete stranger who was, in her eyes, in greater need.
“I grew a lot by just taking risks and putting my self-esteem in question,” she said.
Born in Canada to Iranian parents, Abdalkhani moved to Lima, Ohio, at a young age. As a student at Shawnee High School, she excelled to the top of her class academically, while still maintaining several extra-curricular activities, namely student government. She describes her experience while growing up as “normal,” but one might find that a modest understatement of such an intriguing and inspiring individual.
During her first year at Ohio State, Abdalkhani conquered the feeling of being lost by getting involved in any way possible.
“Getting involved on campus allowed me to meet new people. It created a sense of family for me while at OSU,” she said.
Now a junior in marketing and interactive communications, she recalls coming to OSU as “the best decision.” In addition to working toward her degree, Abdalkhani works for OSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship, serving as the student liaison between the center and students.
She is active in the Honors Contract Council and serves as president of the Business Builders Club, which recently won the Ohio Union Leadership Award for incorporating ideas of all fields into business.
On a more glamorous note, she was voted 2001-02 OSU homecoming queen.
Abdalkhani’s credentials and accomplishments suggest her motivations and goals may be a bit overwhelming for most students, but she seldom feels stressed. Time management, along with her faith in her self-confidence, is her key to success.
“I’m definitely a planner and a perfectionist to some extent. I want to do things right the first time,” she said.
As her undergraduate studies quickly come to an end, Abdalkhani begins to explore her options as an entrepreneur. An internship with the Coca-Cola Company took her to Atlanta last summer, where she developed a presentation guide designed for businesses interested in Coca-Cola. The corporation distributed more than 200 CD-ROMs containing Abdalkhani’s project for use in customer presentations.
After leaving an unforgettable impression on Coca-Cola, Abdalkhani knows she has what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. While her options are many, she plans to choose something close to her heart.
“I love food, and in business they always say you should do something you’re passionate about,” she said.
With that, she hopes to open an international restaurant that incorporates cuisine from all corners of the world. The menu would include several different recipes from as many different countries possible, especially her favorites.
“Spanish, Italian, Indian, Greek, American, a Middle Eastern mix and definitely Persian food,” she said.
Abdalkhani said her idea for an international restaurant emerged from her passion for other cultures and her desire to help promote diversity.
“I love cultural diversity, and I want to help people really understand different ethnicities. An international restaurant would allow them to experience it on their own level,” she said.
Ify Nwokedi, Abdalkhani’s friend and former roommate, assures that Abdalkhani is more than capable of embracing other cultures.
“As an international student, I’ve noticed that not all Americans are open-minded and can accept other people’s cultures. Ida does,” Nwokedi said.
While her plans for an international restaurant are for the near future, Abdalkhani ultimately dreams of organizing a non-profit mentoring program for children.
The idea originated as a way to help children deal with their own confidence and self-esteem during their developmental years. The program would involve public motivational speakers addressing an entire class of children, as well as individual one-on-one mentoring with the children.
Abdalkhani said she hopes the program will reach out to children of all backgrounds, regardless of specific demographics.
“So many kids have great ideas and great potential, but, out of shyness, they’re not expressing themselves,” she said. “Here’s an educational aspect of a non-profit organization that can really have an impact on youth.”