20 Under 20 Most Influential Iranians in NC


As Iranians, we celebrate life through a culture of giving back to society. In 2021, The Iranian Cultural Society of North Carolina (ICSNC) launched North Carolina’s only competition focused on elevating Iranian youth making a significant impact in their communities through their leadership and hard work. Here is how our youth are transforming the community on the local, state, national and/or international level!


The following individuals are the 20 Under 20 Listmakers who joined our network of Iranian leaders throughout North Carolina in 2022.

Sara Pazokian - First Place $600

Sara Pazokian - First Place $600

Green Hope High School - Home Town Cary, NC

Sarah Pazokian co-founded Period Project, NC, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit (“PPNC”), to provide free access to menstrual products throughout North Carolina public schools. PPNC has gathered over 80 ambassadors in 14 schools spanning across 4 counties in NC to date. PPNC has worked with 3 brands to receive over $1,000 in donations and will have provided free period products and created learning environments in which female students feel secure and provided for in the public school system.  

In addition to her passion for women’s rights, Sarah is also dedicated to animal advocacy and co-founded Halo Paws during COVID quarantine. Sarah was involved in setting up a website and shop through which handmade rings were sold, with 100% of the profits donated to local animal shelters to pay for the medical expenses of the dogs housed there.  

Sarah is most proud of her involvement in Igniting Writing, an after-school club aimed towards instilling a passion for writing and language arts in middle school students. As co-president, she revived this club after it had dissolved during COVID and recruited over 25 consistent members.  

Sarah’s most valuable takeaway from her volunteer and leadership experiences is that collaboration and communication are the foundations to success.  

Ali Mahmoudi - Second Place $450

Ali Mahmoudi - Second Place $450

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Home Town Apex, NC

Ali Mahmoudi joined a small group of heroes and helped re-open his mosque to provide a home for Afghan refugees. Ali also organized drives for the community to donate whatever they could to help these refugees with their needs. From clothing to toys, Ali helped set up stations to provide for those in need.  

Ali also restarted Sunday school at his mosque during this time along with Farsi, Arabic, and character education classes. By reopening school, the refugees would have a place to learn, play, and most importantly, meet others. In addition to being a full-time college student, Ali took the responsibility to teach one of these classes for the younger children and cherished discovering how strong and resilient these students were, despite their young age.  

Through his work with the Afghan refugees and his involvement in the mosque, Ali learned just how much a few individuals can positively impact the lives of many in need.  

Sophia Salem - Third Place $350

Sophia Salem - Third Place $350

R.J Reynolds High School - Home Town Winston-Salem, NC

Sophia Salem is the co-chair of A Bed and a Book’s next generation board. In this capacity, she accompanies this non-profit organization on its bed delivery days, assembling and delivering twin-sized beds, mattresses, sheets, pillows, and books to children in need. Sophia has raised over $2,000 to supply the children across Forsyth County with a safe space to lay their heads as some have slept on floors and couches for as long as they can remember.  

Sophia then came up with the idea of using social media as the next step in motivating others to become involved with A Bed and a Book. By capturing the reactions of children receiving their first bed and book on film, Sophia inspired others to give. As the social media manager of A Bed and A Book’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter spaces, Sophia has exponentially increased community awareness and support for A Bed and A Book through her deep involvement in it.  

Sophia shared that so many aspects of her experience with A Bed and a Book have inspired her and feels that if she can be the reason that a child goes to bed with a feeling of relief and comfort, she has done her job of making an imprint on someone’s life forever.  

Kasra Aliasghari

Kasra Aliasghari

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Home Town Apex, NC

Kasra Aliasghari gives back to his community by teaching other individuals about advanced financial topics and techniques to apply in their everyday lives. He organized weekly meetings at his high school to cover financial topics and to provide a space for students to converse, learn, and grow with one another in financial wisdom. Kasra organizes sessions involving both faculty members and students to explore the fundamentals of financial markets alongside basic analysis techniques.  

Kasra found that creating a group of like-minded individuals to explore financial knowledge and proficiency created a positive ripple effect throughout the community by equipping members of the group to take their developed skillsets and apply them to other organizations outside of the classroom.  

Kasra shared that learning to be highly adaptive and contributing to his community in various ways highlighted the significance of failure and how it can facilitate future growth as long as it’s embraced.  

Jackson Reza Erfani

Jackson Reza Erfani

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Home Town Charlotte, NC

Jackson Reza Erfani worked as a Bridge Builder for Refugee Community Partnership and assisted an Afghan family that had just left their home country. From handling their transportation, to helping them create a bank account, to straightening out their paperwork, Jackson also shared his time over meals to help them however he could.  

In addition to his work with Afghan refugees, Jackson served four years as a volunteer soccer coach for children, assisted the elementary German club, and served as a volunteer teaching assistant for pre-calculus.  

Through his work with Afghan refugees, Jackson learned to step out of his comfort zone so he could serve as an effective advocate for those who need his help.  

Pegah Montazeri

Pegah Montazeri

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Home Town Cary, NC

Pegah Montazeri and a friend started The Ronald McDonald House Club at her school. Through her leadership, they helped host volunteering events by making cards for the children at The Ronald McDonald House, hosting fundraisers, creating care packages, spreading awareness about different illnesses and how they affect people, and cooking healthy meals for the children and their families. In her spare time, Pegah taught volleyball skills to students at her local mosque and counseled youth at the local YMCA.  

Pegah shared that due to starting this club for service, she has made differences in her community that have further inspired her to make a difference long term in her life.  

Rose Rouzbahani

Rose Rouzbahani

Panther Creek High School - Home Town Cary, NC

Rose Rouzbahani moved to America from Iran when she was in the third grade and has since contributed much to her community. She participated in “Fighting For Our Future,” a youth organization that fights for environmental, social, and medical justice. In her role with the organization, Rose asked for office attire donations for women. Over the past summer, she taught English to children in Iran.  

Rose is frequently involved with events through ICSNC, creating the choreography and performing with two teammates in Yalda. They also performed the song Hameh Migan during the festivities. Rose went on to coordinate outfits and dance during the Nowruz event in 2022 with four others.  

Rose shared that going through struggles made her the person she is today, one that is proud of her accomplishments.  

2021 – Inaugural Group

In 2021, The Iranian Cultural Society of North Carolina (ICSNC) launched North Carolina’s only competition focused on elevating Iranian youth making a significant impact in their communities through their leadership and hard work. Here is how our youth are transforming the community on the local, state, national and/or international level!

The following individuals (listed alphabetically) are the first group of 20 Under 20 Listmakers who joined our network of Iranian leaders in North Carolina in 2021.

Sasan Fahim

Sasan Fahim

Durham Academy

Sassan is the leader of the Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) Club which serves the homeless community in Durham NC. He volunteers his time sorting clothing donations to distribute to communities in need and serving food to the food insecure in the community. He also organizes and plans food drives at school for the UMD and makes speeches to promote these food drives. Sassan has also been successful in galvanizing others to join in these efforts to serve the community by recruiting club members through his school. While the most difficult part of his initiative to serve those less fortunate was trying to stay active during the COVID-19 pandemic, he wisely recognized needs were higher but the ability to help was less and managed this disparity by increasing food drives and donations to the UMD through his school.

During his summers Sassan has served as a summer camp counselor with the Carrboro Arts Center, Durham Academy and Serving Our Community Kids

When asked what he got out of his volunteer work and what advice he would give others, he responded with the following: Being able to support the community around me and support those in need was what I got out of it, as well as learning about my community and its needs. I learned about the importance of supporting those in need and providing for others when possible. It was very memorable to talk with the community members we were providing for. This usually happened when we were serving food or volunteering at the UMD. One specific memorable experience was when one man we were serving came up to us, started a conversation, and thanked us for our efforts and service. It was nice to see and feel how we were having an impact on those around us and how thankful they were. This has been an amazing experience and opportunity. Everyone should support others whenever and wherever possible.

Sarina Horner               *Honored With Distinction

Sarina Horner *Honored With Distinction

Forsyth Country Day School

Sarina organized food drives and 5k’s to feed food insecure children and was President of the Forsyth Backpack Program Club her first two years in high school. She also won grants and raised enough to provide over 15,600 meals.

Sarina moved her social equity work to a higher level when she decided to take on convincing City Hall to allow more than 2 grocery bags on Winston-Salem buses. The 2-bag-rule meant riders must either pay extra bus fare for family members to ride the bus or make multiple trips just to feed their families. Many people live in food deserts in Forsyth County which meant they had to change buses several times to get food. The 2 bag limit amounted to an additional tax on the poor due to lost time being on a bus for hours. During this time, Sarina also co-founded Forsyth County Young Leaders program to provide mentorship and education to historically-excluded high school leaders who deserved the extra help to get their community initiatives to the next level. She also applied for and won a $15,000 federal grant in collaboration with Wake Forest University and HandsOn NWNC to increase youth volunteerism in NC.

Currently, Sarina is leading the student initiative of fighting the Tampon Tax and for menstrual equity in North Carolina. She is the student lobbyist working with senators and representatives to get this tax law repealed.

When asked what she got out of her volunteer work and what advice she would give others, she responded with the following: I learned to be more confident in what I believe in and to be willing to get rejected a lot. And I mean A LOT! Many of the causes I’ve fought for could not be easily won, which is why they still existed. I also made a lot of friends and worked with a lot of people I would never have met otherwise. My baba instilled in me the concept of “If not you, who?” This means if you do not make the needed change, who will do it instead? The most memorable part of my activities were all of the wonderful people I met that I otherwise never would have. The head-of-school at my high school called the front lobby “Sarina’s Office” because many community leaders would have to drive out to meet me between classes because I was not old enough to have a driver’s license. I also learned to communicate well, always confirm appointments the day before, and be a better leader by listening and delegating more. I also learned how to read rules, laws, decipher my City’s budget, find cost savings, and lobby government officials. It felt great when one of my friend’s fathers told me how happy everyone was at his workplace when they read on the front page of the newspaper that they could carry more than 2 grocery bags on the bus on the way home from work. I would tell other youth to not take rejection personally and to just keep on asking for what you need until you find someone who will say “yes” and help you. I would also share with them that the most rewarding things don’t happen overnight and that many of the community activities I succeeded at took years of work and persistence.

Armita Jamshidi  *Honored With Distinction

Armita Jamshidi *Honored With Distinction

Cornell University

Armita founded, developed, and has served as president of the Be My English organization since 2019. She also presented involvement in Be My English at a TEDX event in 2020. In addition to running this wonderful organization, she was leader and choreographer of the Iranian Teen Dance Group and has been involved in the organization since 2008. Under her leadership, the dance group grew from three members to ten and included five non-Iranians. Armita also founded and co-led the Dance Around the World club with fifteen consistent members.

Armita’s interest in service expanded deeply into the environmental spectrum as well. She was co-president of the Students for Environmental Education club which sustainably designed the school’s café, mandated compost cycle, and planned ‘green’ spirit weeks. Just like Armita grew the Iranian Dance Group, she more than tripled her school club’s membership to twenty-two members and won the ‘Outstanding Collaboration Award.’ Her positive impact on the environment did not end there – she completed an independent study in calculating the school’s carbon footprint and developing a 5-year carbon neutrality action plan and presented these calculations to the school board resulting in the implementation of sustainable systems to offset remaining emissions.

In addition to having created a platform to pair English-proficient volunteers to ESL immigrants, dancing like a true Iranian and encouraging others to do so and saving the environment all at once, Armita is a North Carolina food blogger with 1,794 followers and enjoys collaborating and highlighting minority-owned businesses and sustainable initiatives.

When asked what she got out of her volunteer work and what advice she would give others, she responded with the following: Through my involvement with Be My English, I have learned the immense value in the story everyone brings to the table, and that by exploiting barriers we can create a society more equitable for all. Starting from scratch, I learned how to design and program a website and acquired knowledge about the logistics behind running an organization. Moreover, the most memorable reward was first seeing the audience at my TED speech because I realized how many other individuals cared about the issue. My dad always told me, and this project made me believe, that you can be anybody you want to be: I would pass the quote onto younger generations because I believe that constantly reminding them will unlock unparalleled potential in their lifelong impact.

The Iranian Teen Dance Group taught me the importance of communication; talking with the members, ICSNC, and festival coordinators allowed me to develop this imperative skill. The sheer adrenaline before we performed each year that turned into paralyzing gratification afterwards left the most nostalgic feeling within any of my volunteer projects. I would teach younger individuals that volunteer work, if done properly, should be anything but daunting.

Lastly, with my blog, I learned the importance of demonstrating my true self. Taking a leap to showcase my cultural heritage to my followers, and to come out and explicitly support minority-owned businesses ended with a rewarding feeling. The lesson I would take away and teach from this, and all of my volunteer projects, is to figure out what you love to do first, and then find a way to help others through that medium: this way, one can continue to enjoy his or her activity, simultaneously leave a lasting impact on their community, and grow even more given the gratification you have received from the latter.

Halle Kincaid

Halle Kincaid

University of Pennsylvania

Halle’s favorite community service activity is Kid Smart Food. It is an organization she founded to pair her love of science, food, and helping others. While doing research for a publication on the gut microbiome, she became fascinated with obesity and its origins. She used this knowledge to help empower children at risk to learn to care for themselves independently. She explained good food choices, the nutrition behind them, and how to access it independently. Through in-classroom presentations her organization has taught over a thousand children. Through its website, social media, and cookbook, they have reached thousands more.

When asked what she got out of her volunteer work and what advice she would give others, she responded with the following: I think gaining confidence is what I most appreciated from this experience. It developed as a result of the most challenging part of this nonprofit which was garnering initial interest. In its beginning stages, I would pitch my program and the biggest obstacle was often to find a school that could fit my presentation into their schedule. My initial yield on calls to local schools was low, and I started with single or double classes of students and practiced my sessions diligently. This allowed me to gain confidence when promoting my program to new schools. I also used previous teachers and principals as references and directed school officials to our website. These efforts paid off as demonstrated by my most recent teaching requests that have included entire grades of students at a school, and this summer at a school requesting a teachers-only session during their back-to-school program.

Accessing resources was also a challenge, so I applied for federal nonprofit status and have secured food donations through Publix.

Julia Kincaid

Julia Kincaid

Forsyth Country Day School

Julia developed a website called Science At Home Kids which teaches younger children how to perform science projects at home and the scientific principles around those projects. This was developed during the Covid-19 pandemic when children had less access to in-school science projects. She also volunteered at Kaleideum which is the local science museum.

When asked what she got out of her volunteer work and what advice she would give others, she responded with the following: I have always loved science and sharing knowledge with others. The feedback I got from the kids was awesome. I loved that they always wanted to know when the next project was coming, that was probably my favorite part. I enjoyed that I was able to come up with projects on my own. Some I had done when I was younger, some as part of my science museum experience, some from just creative sparks. It was fun to really initiate something that is of value to others. I also thought it was pretty cool to run a website. I would tell other young people that no matter what you think, truly nothing is out of reach and that you really can make an impact.

Jordyn Mirgoli

Jordyn Mirgoli

Fuquay Varina High School

Jordyn is active in her 4H Club, serving as Vice President. She also serves as a local ambassador at the district level for 4H, sitting in on meetings and having voting power to help support her club. She also volunteers monthly with a non-profit therapeutic equine group called Stampede of Love and attends its community events. As a member of the National Honor Society at Fuquay Varina, she is required to meet service hour requirements that benefit her community and school. Through the National Honor Society, she does everything from staying after school to help clean up the school grounds, to collecting and donating canned goods to the local food bank. Her 4H club also does a yearly canned food drive to benefit the community food bank. She enjoys being part of groups that help serve her community from helping feed folks in need, to working with the miniature horses with Stampede of Love.

When asked what she got out of her volunteer work and what advice she would give others, she responded with the following: I have learned to be someone you can count on, someone that if you need me, you know I will make myself available. You will know that when I give you my word, I follow through and you can count on me. I have become more comfortable interacting with people in our community and able to talk to folks and share my love of all things equine and the benefits a horse can provide. Everytime I volunteer with the Stampede of Love or 4H is my favorite memory; it amazes me how regardless if we are at a festival, a parade, a nursing home, or a hospital, people are drawn to the miniature horses and love spending time with them. They always ask tons of questions and children especially love seeing the horses, asking questions, and loving on the horses. It brings me joy to share them with our community and I am thankful to be able to be a part of these awesome organizations. I would tell young people to always be looking for ways to help your community, take your passion and find a way to use your passion to benefit as many people as you can. There are many ways to get involved in your community, you just have to look around and commit!

Ghazal Mirzazadeh

Ghazal Mirzazadeh

Atkins High School

Ghazal is the Operations Director of an international non-profit organization, the Green Schools Campaign, which works with schools around the world to transition to 100% renewable energy reliance. Since middle school, Ghazal has competed in environmental research design. Through years of competing, she developed a love for fixing the climatic disaster we face.

While many non-profits and clubs focus on environmental issue communication, Ghazal believes the climate crisis has exacerbated any such efforts and that real remedies require real action – while the spreading of “green” ideals could have been a priority in the past, we (and our world) have outworked any such needs.

After hearing about the Green Schools Campaign, Ghazal knew it was her chance to make a real impact on her environment and society. She began with the facilitation of a Region Coordinator system and training that allowed one-on-one communication with schools. Running the campaign’s East Coast Region schools, Ghazal worked with over a dozen schools from around the Atlantic Coast on their transition to renewable energy.

Today, Ghazal runs all operations of the Green Schools Campaign, working with, and presenting to thousands of teachers, students, and administrators in limiting large-scale contributions to the climate crisis.

When asked what she got out of her volunteer work and what advice she would give others, she responded with the following: Throughout this journey, I’ve grown as both a person and volunteer. I learned of the intricacies of energy government, processes of school board approvals, and the motivational variance of volunteer organizations. But, most of all, I’ve learned comfort in presentation and self-confidence in my knowledge through the pure repetition and preparation for dozens of growth presentations.

I remember first hearing about the initial successful school transition – the shock, disbelief, and pure pride and happiness. We did that, and the feeling has kept me going to transition dozens more schools through the previous and coming years.

Melody Moossavi                  *Honored With Distinction

Melody Moossavi *Honored With Distinction

Forsyth Country Day School

Access to education and appropriate enrichment materials is abundant in the English language. However, for other languages, like Farsi, these resources are scarce. When Melody learned that her own chemistry teacher, Dr. Sponholtz, was working to mend the gap between this disparity, she was eager to become involved with his mission. Sponholtz Productions is a successful company that provides worldwide educational materials in chemistry. Fortunately, Melody was able to join the team and work towards converting materials from an English language format to Farsi. By spearheading a team of Farsi translators, she was able to create a well-working group of individuals to expand access to education. Together wIth Dr. Sponholtz, she translated, recorded, and edited three, one-hour-long chemistry videos. These videos were published on Youtube to an audience of over 34 thousand and have gained a large number of views. The impact these videos have made is reflected in their success. The work they have done in translating these materials is endlessly important to her. She is proud of the advancements her team has made but also of the personal benefits she has reaped. She has become much more appreciative of her advantages in being a person in an English-speaking country. Never before had she considered the challenges that come with primarily speaking a different language and not having the same access to materials for learning. Now, she is able to look at her privileges through a different lens and strive to provide the same access to others. Melody learned how important it is to be worldly in one’s thinking and to recognize the privilege one has. She has also learned how to be a leader among a team of peers. She is also thankful for having enhanced her own Farsi vocabulary, literacy, and fluency.

When asked what she got out of her volunteer work and what advice she would give others, she responded with the following:  Before, I was a fluent colloquial Farsi speaker, but now I am much well versed in scientific terms and phrases that have bettered my own language skills. The most memorable part of my work was involving my friends and family in making this project possible. Without them and their aid and willingness to help, I would not have been able to complete this project. One special moment from this project was when I looked back at the comments on the published videos. I was so happy to learn that the work we had done was being appreciated and used to enrich the lives of others. I would tell other young people that this experience was unlike any other. It was difficult and even aggravating at times, but, nevertheless, it was one of the most important experiences I have ever been involved in. I would encourage others to become involved in volunteering as well.

Hasti Sadri

Hasti Sadri

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Over the past few years, Hasti has been incredibly involved in service opportunities through the YMCA. She has served as the YMCA’s Leaders Club president and as the Attorney General of Youth and Government. She was a part of Leaders Club for three years through which she designed and directed weekly meetings, and created and sought out volunteer opportunities for all members. She was also an active member of Youth and Government for four years and served as an associate and executive officer during her time. Through her involvement with Youth and Government, Hasti ran the Mock Trial department and helped transition YAG to a virtual setting due to COVID-19.

When asked what she got out of her volunteer work and what advice she would give others, she responded with the following: My volunteer work reinforced the importance of a community and support system. Leaders Club taught me the importance of serving your community and the impact one person can have. One of my favorite volunteer activities was spending the day at a local nursing home. We played bingo, made friendship bracelets, and danced with them. The joy that surrounded that day is one I will never forget.

Through Youth and Government, I learned how helpful networking and reaching out to people for help can be. My favorite moment would be meeting with my associate officers after the trial with Josh Stein. Seeing the teams I worked with all year show off their hard work to the Attorney General was remarkable. I would encourage all young people to find a group or groups that help them grow as people and learn about themselves and their community. The impact these groups made on me is something I would not be able to get from other clubs, and I am so grateful I was able to take part in them.