December 27, 2017
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She launched a self-defense training program for girls in her high school

Inspired by action movies, Maryland teen wants to empower young women to be their own heroes

High school junior Razan Mikdashi has organizaed self-defense classes at her high school in Bethesda, Maryland. Photo courtesy of Project Bond

I’ve always loved actions movies and their heroes. James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne … I’ve seen them all. A few months ago, I watched a movie about the daughter of a CIA agent who is kidnapped. Instead of waiting for her dad to come to her rescue, she defends herself and escapes. That led me to ask myself what would I do if I was being followed, chased, or harassed?

It’s hard to imagine ever being in that same situation, but after doing some research I learned that every 109 seconds, an individual is sexually assaulted in America. Whether it’s coming home late from school or taking the Metro, these everyday occurrences are constant reminders that this problem persists. Defending yourself should not be a privilege awarded only to the kids of secret agents. That is why I created Project Bond, a self-defense training program that allows girls to gain control of their lives by learning to defend themselves. By the end of the training, our girls no longer have to wait for a rescuer, but will become their own heroes.

Over the span of seven months, I worked alongside mentors and local entrepreneurs who helped me create my very own venture through a program called LearnServe International. Gathering passionate students eager to make a difference in the world, this organization guided me to develop the skills and business tools to learn to stand up and take action on the issues that matter most to me. I outlined the “smart goals” I wanted to accomplish and translated these goals into vision and mission statements. I also mapped out the resources I needed to make this venture a reality and developed the means of measuring the intended impact of my venture, keeping in my mind both my outcomes and outputs.

At the end of the LearnServe Fellows Program, I launched Project Bond at the French International School, where we have empowered over 40 students with self-defense classes. In early March, my team members and I organized Women’s Week at my school, raising awareness of the importance of self defense. On March 8, International Women’s Day, we gathered 35 female students for a self-defense session and we asked students how they felt about last year’s UN theme: Women in the Changing World of Work. We also sold personalized pins and bracelets to promote Project Bond and to fundraise. In total, we raised around $300. I raised another $345 through a crowd-funding app. Ever since, Project Bond has had consistent self-defense classes taught by a professional instructor.

As we approach our one year anniversary, I am reminded day after day why my venture remains so relevant. Every time I turn on the news, I hear tragic reports of yet another woman assaulted and I can’t help but wonder who’s next. While these reports are disturbing, they push my team members and I to work harder on Project Bond and expand our reach beyond the confines of our school. We are working to start a YouTube channel to document our participants’ journeys and provide safety tools for those who are unable to attend our classes. My long-term goal is not only to guarantee that girls have the tools to defend themselves, but also to make schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, leaders in this empowerment movement for others to follow.

Razan Mikdashi

Founder of Project Bond

Razan Mikdashi is the founder and president of Project Bond. She is a junior at the French International School in Bethesda, Maryland. A LearnServe Fellow in 2016, Razan now takes part in the LearnServe Ambassador Program. In her free time, she enjoys keeping up with current affairs, playing varsity soccer, and reading about new medical treatments.