LOUISVILLE, Ky. (June 3, 2024) — A YPAL member and recent graduate of the Emerging Leaders Program is leading a life-long mission to help people in Louisville.

Amina Shale is the executive director of the More Than A Smile Foundation, which advocates for the rights, equality, and representation of refugees, immigrants, and low-income families in Kentucky. The Louisville nonprofit provides tutoring, mentorship, and mental health support services to minority communities, fostering academic excellence and self-empowerment.

 

Shale’s family came to the United States from Kenya when she was six years old. Her family first settled in Dallas, and then moved to Louisville.

“For a curious six-year-old, it was very much life-changing because I was so adapted to life in Texas, meeting people from diverse backgrounds coming from a refugee camp and resettling in a country where opportunity seemed endless,” Shale said. “There was so much opportunity, I just wanted to explore.”

That introduction to opportunity led Shale on a life-long mission.

“It’s been difficult having a community that’s not used to having opportunities,” Shale said. “For me, it was how do I bring the opportunities to my community.”

More Than A Smile Foundation helps families with basic needs, adjust to a new home and connect the past and future together.

“Sometimes it can be language within a household, oftentimes the youth don’t understand their native language,” Shale said. “I try to bring that together so the youth can understand how to better help the elders, but also elders can teach us what we might have missed out on in our homeland.”

Shale cherishes the memory of a community event she co-hosted in Louisville that brought people together to voice their ideas, concerns and knowledge.

“During that session was the first time I saw women in my community stand up and speak on their issues,” Shale said. “One of the ladies shared how she had a health disparity. That made me realize there are so many barriers this community has, and oftentimes they just need that one opportunity to have a voice in the room.”

Shale said YPAL has been a door of opportunity that she needed.

“YPAL introduced me to individuals and organizations that I’ve connected with,” Shale said. “I’ve been able to create a partnership. And with those partnerships, they’ve lasted outside of the Emerging Leaders Program. To still be connected with those individuals, YPAL is the reason I continue to advocate.”

She graduated from the Emerging Leaders Program this year. She believes YPAL can strength its connection to other community organizations.

“YPAL is doing a great job right now, but to offer more diverse populations, including them, asking individuals from different communities,” Shale said. “Many communities have ethnic based organizations, so to connect with those organizations would be a help. It makes it more inclusive.”

Shale said her favorite place she has visited in Louisville is the Muhammad Ali Center, saying the quotes on the wall were an inspiration.