Who we are and how we got here.
The Organizing Committee
The Afghan-American Conference started as an idea implemented by a group of students and working professionals volunteering remotely from across the United States. Our team is comprised of individuals with deep passion for our community, a commitment to service, and diverse personal and professional experiences that seek to advance AAC’s vision of building a supportive, empowered, and engaged Afghan-American community.
ZACHIA NAZARZAI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Growing up, Zachia was surrounded by a large Afghan community in Southern California. However, it was upon joining the United Afghan Club at UCLA that she first started working with the community, and she has not stopped since. Zachia is driven by the strength of her community and hopes the Afghan-American Conference will serve as a space for the community to learn from and work with one another.
Zachia is a Policy Analyst on the Neighborhood Services team in Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office. In her role, she works closely with the Department of Recreation and Parks and the LA Zoo. She received her BA in International Development Studies and Political Science from UCLA and her Masters in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University.
GINA KARIMI, APPLICATIONS CHAIR
Gina Karimi’s passion for the Afghan-American community began as a child, seeing her father participate in various community events in an attempt to unite our community. In college, she was one of the leaders of ASA-West’s nationwide clothing, blankets and school supply drive for Afghanistan. She is also a board member of the Afghan Health Initiative.
Gina is currently a statistical analyst in Los Angeles, CA and received her M.S. in Biostatistics from UCLA. She is passionate about music and advocates for musicians and artists. She also loves memes and the Los Angeles Lakers.
SARA NOORZAY, COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT CHAIR
Born in Afghanistan, but raised in the United States, Sara always felt a deep connection to her Afghan roots. Serving her community was never an option, it was a requirement. As a previous member of the Afghan American Youth Council, a non-profit organization established post-9/11, Sara worked on various programs and events focused on engaging, supporting, and empowering the Afghan-American community in Southern California. Through the years, life became busy and her involvement with the community diminished–but after attending her first AAC conference in 2015, she felt inspired and energized to re-engage in a more meaningful way. After serving as an AAC participant the last few years, Sara decided to join the AAC Organizing Committee in 2017 and take an active role in shaping the experience for future participants.
Sara currently resides in Los Angeles and serves as a Sr. Director of Business Systems Operation at PebblePost, a programmatic direct mail startup based in New York, with operations on the West Coast.
MADINA SALEMI NOORISTANI, FINANCE CO-CHAIR
Being born in Kabul, Afghanistan and witnessing first hand the sacrifices her parents made to escape the war in order to give Madina a brighter future has made her realize how privileged she is. She has tried in the past to pay it forward to future generations who may not have been as fortunate through various organizations but none inspired her like AAC.
She hopes that AAC will continue to grow and prosper so that one day, it can give her son a community to belong to, learn from, and be proud of. Madina has worked on Wall Street at AIG for the past 12 years as an Actuary. She graduated New York University, Stern School of Business with a major in Actuarial Science, Finance and minor in Mathematics.
OMAR AZIZ, PROGRAMMING CO-CHAIR
Omar Aziz is a proud Fremonti who grew up with Afghan soccer, Lake Elizabeth picnics, and the beautiful chaos of Afghan Sunday school. Hip-hop music and culture educated him to think critically about society, and he hopes to use the knowledge and skills gained from the experiences of other minority American communities to further the agency of Afghan-Americans. Omar is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, former high school teacher, and higher education administrator. Inspired by attending the inaugural AAC,
Omar helped start The Samovar Network, which is an online forum for Afghans to discuss issues affecting the diaspora. He is currently working on receiving a PhD in Education at George Mason University. On the side, Omar works tirelessly to convince doubters that he is a life-long Golden State Warriors fan and has never rode on any bandwagon.
SOPHIE HOSSEIN, PROGRAMMING CO-CHAIR
Sophie believes she is most aligned with her purpose when she is helping her community work tirelessly to overcome generations of trauma. Growing up, her positive and negative experiences and interactions in the community encapsulated every reason she cares strongly about service for others, the power of human connection, and the ability to heal.
Sophie is a Surgical Technician in Newport Beach, California and is an aspiring Physician Assistant. She was born and raised in the Bay Area and lives in Orange County, California. Sophie graduated cum laude from UC Riverside, where she founded UCR’s then-defunct Afghan Students Association.
HAROUN DADA, LOGISTICS CHAIR
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Haroun grew up without an Afghan community (outside of his family). An AAC attendee in 2015, a speaker in 2016, and a cohort lead in 2017, Haroun decided to get involved as an organizer for our 2018 conference. He felt the conference provided him with so much both personally and professionally; he wanted to ensure the same is provided to all participants.
Haroun is a Senior Analyst at The Wendy’s Company in Columbus, Ohio and the Head of Healthcare Management for GliaLab, a new startup that develops artificial intelligence solutions for the healthcare industry. He received his B.A. in International Studies at The Ohio State University and his M.H.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to Wendy’s and GliaLab, Haroun was a Consultant at Deloitte.